Norway longline fishing down, Iceland up

Despite the high quality, regular availability, low energy consumption and gentle fishing, the Norwegian longline fishery is in decline. The opposite is occurring in Iceland.

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Portrettbilde av Edgar Henriksen
Edgar Henriksen

Senior Scientist
Phone: +47 905 78 325

There are many positive aspects of using longlines as a fishing technique. Conditions to emphasise include the high quality of raw material, relatively even distribution of landings throughout the year, low energy consumption and gentle treatment of the sea floor. But despite these factors, the Norwegian longline fishery is in weak decline. However, in Iceland, development is going in the opposite direction. The proportion of demersal fish being caught by longline in Iceland is increasing – among large and small vessels alike. Scientists from Nofima Marked have been studying why.

Regulatory policies that offer bonuses

The reason for the increase in the Icelandic longline fishery can be explained by market conditions and differences in regulatory measurement. Owing to reasons of regional policy, quotas are allocated offering a 16 percent quota-bonus for longline vessels utilising hand-baited longlines and which operate from a fixed place. This is an extremely popular scheme and works more effectively than the Norwegian stimulation of coastal longline fleets: bait quotas.

From days at sea to tradable quotas

The scheme of days at sea as a regulatory measure for Iceland’s hand jigging fleet was abolished in 2003 and replaced with tradable fishing boat quotas. Given that the quotas allocated to the smallest vessel group may only be fished with undefined hook gears, this has provided the longline fleet with boats less than 15 gross tonnes (about 13.5m) greater opportunities to buy quotas – and they are availing themselves of this opportunity.

Modern boats

The combination of speed fishing boats and autoline systems has become extremely popular in Iceland, as these vessels are both effective and profitable. Profitability has meant that the vessels have had a major economic ability to buy and lease quotas, and this vessel group has experienced formidable growth. Annual catches of around 1000 tonnes (live weight) are not uncommon for autoline vessels of 12 -13 m.

Prefer fish caught by longline

Owing to the raw material quality and consistency of supply, the Icelandic fishing industry prefers fish caught by longline. The fishing industry also has the opportunity to own fishing vessels and quotas. Opportunity, raw material preferences and profitability leads to the fishing industry investing in autoliners and quotas for these. Fish caught by the longline fishing boats in Iceland is landed fresh, including by the oceangoing fleet.

Marketed as environmentally friendly

English supermarket chains market hook-caught fish as environmentally friendly. Consequently, the Icelandic fishing industry has a large demand for fish caught by longline where environmental arguments weigh heavily. The fact that the longline fleet also contributes with continuity of supplies and good quality strengthens the Icelandic fishing industry’s preference for fish caught using this technique.

Norway also wants fish caught by longline, but…

The Norwegian fishing industry also prefers raw materials caught by longline, and is making adjustments for the longline fleet by making facilities for hand baiting available. However, Norwegian stimulus and regulatory schemes and the fishing industry’s adjustments appear to have far less effect than the Icelandic arrangements.

– The objective of this project is to develop knowledge about the use of longlines as fishing gear in the Norwegian fishing fleet, says Scientist Edgar Henriksen.

This analysis forms part of the Fishery and Aquaculture Industry Research Fund (FHF) project “Market-based harvesting of fish resources”.

Industrial Economics  

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