Scheme causing difficulties
Nofima has evaluated the introduction of the new landing regulations for the Norwegian fishing industry, and found several factors that are not functioning satisfactorily.
The problem of criminal activity in the fishing industry appears at regular intervals, which is why the authorities want better control of catches. To combat criminal behaviour, regulations concerning landing and delivery notes have been prepared. These landing regulations came into force on 1 January 2015 and include new requirements for the internal control of fishing companies.
Nofima was commissioned by the Fishery and Aquaculture Industry Research Fund (FHF) to determine how well the scheme has functioned so far. In order to do so, the researchers conducted an extensive survey among fishing companies, fish sales organisations and employees of the Norwegian Directorate of Fisheries. The survey shows that the introduction of the regulations has not been trouble-free.
Requirements sacrificing efficiency
The regulations include a requirement that all catches should be logged daily, together with information about the progress of each catch through the facility. There are also new requirements on labelling, storage and an obligation to keep catches separate from each other throughout the process, from the point at which the fish is taken ashore to the time it is despatched from the company in a more or less processed form. Pelagic fisheries are also subject to new requirements concerning weights and sampling.
Both small and large fishing companies along the coast were included in the survey. Efficiency is high on the agenda of these businesses and, although some of the companies have been able to implement the requirements, they are unanimous in their belief that this is at the expense of efficiency.
Several business leaders say, for example, that it is challenging to keep catches separate from the point at which they are brought ashore until processing has been completed at the reception station, especially as this requires large storage capacity during periods when many, often small, catches arrive simultaneously. Along the southern coast of Norway, this problem has been found to be insurmountable. Small catches with a large diversity of species are typical of this area and, according to the regulations, they must be kept separate from each other.
A practical problem, resulting from the scheme being introduced without the existence of computer systems adapted to the new regulations, means that records must be input manually. Several respondents pointed out that, paradoxically, the level of detail required makes it easier to record errors – either inadvertently or deliberately – thus defeating the purpose of the scheme.
The companies estimate that efficiency could drop to a third in the peak season if the regulatory requirements remain as they are now.
“Based on the survey responses, we believe that customised computer systems and lower levels of detail will enable companies to comply with the requirements more efficiently, while giving the authorities sufficient control over catches,” says researcher Marianne Svorken.
Frustrated by poor communication
The Norwegian Directorate of Fisheries is the body responsible for implementing and following up the landing regulations. On introduction, companies and fish sales organisations openly expressed their frustration at the lack of information provided, and consistently report poor communication from the Directorate’s head office.
The companies expected that, as executive authority, the Directorate of Fisheries would be able to provide specific guidance on what needs to be done in terms of modifications, investments and routine changes to satisfy the regulatory requirements. They do not feel they have received such guidance.
Generally speaking, the respondents were more satisfied with the local inspectors and their handling of the new rules, although they found that the Directorate’s inspectors were not unanimous on which solutions could be approved. Their impression was that the Directorate was not sufficiently prepared when the regulations came into force.
A small number of inspectors and fish sales organisations were also interviewed as part of the survey. They say that, once temporary exemptions have been phased out, the regulation has the potential to give them much improved control tools. However, the responses of the inspectors and sales organisations agree with those of the fishing companies in that they feel the companies have been given contradictory advice and that the records requirements may be difficult to comply with, especially for smaller companies.
Should adjust regulations together
Almost ten years have elapsed since the landing regulations were prepared to the point when they came into force. During this period, efficiency requirements have become stricter and it has become increasingly common for white fish to be delivered ungutted. The regulations have failed to take this into consideration. The researchers, therefore, believe that the regulations need to be updated and that the rules should be adapted to meet the needs of different realities. They point to the fact that conditions in southern and eastern Norway require particular attention.
“Based on the interviews conducted, we would recommend that the authorities sit down with the industry and adjust the regulations so that they are easier for everyone to comply with. New equipment and systems, customised requirements and more specific guidance on investments and procedures will ensure that the regulations work,” says Svorken.
“We also need to assess whether the regulations permit the use of new, state-of-the-art solutions currently seen in reception stations. We would further recommend that controls are less clearly defined, at least until effective systems have been established. They can subsequently be tightened up, should this prove necessary. Then the authorities can achieve better control of the situation and, hopefully, we can overcome fishing crime,” she adds.