Fisheries and trade in seafood

Cooperation with the EU in the area of fisheries is of vital importance for Norway, even though management of fisheries resources is not included in the EEA Agreement. Fisheries cooperation between the EU and Norway is based on bilateral agreements, while trade in fish and fish products is regulated by a protocol in the EEA Agreement as well as several bilateral agreements.

Fiskebåt i sjø
Credit: Trym Ivar Bergsmo/Sjømatrådet

Norway is the second largest exporter of seafood in the world, and the EU is our most important market. Almost 60 % of Norwegian seafood exports are to the EU. Fish do not respect national boundaries and move between countries’ exclusive economic zones. Norway shares the responsibility for the management of the fish stocks in the North Sea with the EU, and EU fisheries management policy is therefore of great importance for Norway.

Trade in seafood

Under Protocol 9 of the EEA Agreement and other bilateral agreements, Norway enjoys duty free trade with the EU in most whitefish products and reduced tariffs on many other products. Protocol 9 does not provide for reduced tariffs on a number of important products, including shrimps, mackerel, herring, great scallops and Norway lobster. For these products, the EU maintains import tariffs that vary according to the degree of processing. For example; a tariff of 2% is imposed on the import of whole, fresh salmon, while the tariff for smoked salmon is 13%. The trade in a number of these products (including mackerel, shrimp and herring) is subject to various tariff-free quotas that the EU has established following EU enlargements.


The Government is following the Brexit process closely. An orderly UK withdrawal from the EU would be good for Europe and good for Norway. It is up to the negotiating parties themselves – the EU and the UK – to find solutions that they can agree on. In our dialogue with the parties, we have stressed the importance of preserving the integrity of the Single Market, which Norway is a part of through the EEA Agreement. The EU has done the same.

After Brexit, we have to establish new legal frameworks for trade and for our cooperation with the UK in other areas once the country leaves the EU and is no longer a party to the EU’s international agreements. We are now in the process of reviewing all the affected agreements, both Norway’s agreements and those of the UK, to identify more closely the areas that will need to be regulated in new ways. Norway is preparing for all scenarios, including a situation where the EU and the UK fail to negotiate an agreement. Norway holds regular talks with both the EU and the UK. We make active use of these talks to ensure that we are as close to the process as possible and can safeguard Norwegian interests. 

The Government has established an interministerial Brexit Task Force, which is following the negotiations and developments closely, identifying Norwegian interests that could be affected by Brexit, and coordinating our dialogue with the EU and the UK. This work will provide an important basis for future negotiations.

In the area of fisheries management, we maintain a close dialogue with both the EU and the UK. For Norwegian fishermen and the fisheries industry, Brexit will change the way we cooperate on managing joint stocks. We will have to establish a new, three party, framework agreement for management in the North Sea. Two reference groups have been established for the fisheries sector and for key stakeholders in the Norwegian business sector respectively. Maintaining a close and structured dialogue with these groups will be an important part of our follow-up work. This in turn will help to ensure a smooth transition to the next phase when future cooperation structures will be discussed. We have received positive feedback regarding these initiatives.

The European markets after Brexit

Although the UK will leave the EU, the current  market access commitments the EU has towards Norwegian seafood will continue to apply. In addition, Norway and  the UK must agree on the shape and form of a new free trade agreement which will also determine the conditions for trade in seafood. In this context, Norway's position is that there should be free trade in seafood in our bilateral trade.

Fisheries cooperation between Norway and the EU

Fisheries Management

Norway and the EU has a long-standing tradition of cooperating with the management of fisheries and trade in fish and fish products. The EEA Agreement does not comprise Norwegian fisheries policy and management. Consequently, the bilateral cooperation on fisheries management between Norway and the EU in the North Sea stems from a framework agreement dating from 1980 a subsequent exchange of letters from 1992.  

Norway and the EU shares the responsibility for the management of fish stocks in the North Sea. The EU’s fisheries management policy is therefore of great importance to Norway.

On the basis of the UN Convention of the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS), Norway participates in annual fisheries consultations with neighbouring countries and entities.

The fisheries agreement between Norway and the EU regulates the management of joint stocks and reciprocal access to fish each other’s exclusive fisheries zones. Another important element is the exchange of quotas on certain stocks in the North Sea, the Barents Sea and off Jan Mayen, West of the British Isles and in Greenlandic waters.

The exchange of quota on exclusive stocks is based on historical fishing patterns and should be balanced. However, it may also be affected by variations in the size of the stocks. As an example, the recent expansive development in the cod stock in the Barents Sea has led to an increase in the quota proposed to the EU, while stocks offered as compensation from the EU to Norway has not had the same development. Consequently, Norway has retained parts of the quota offered to the EU.

Norway and the EU also meet in multilateral consultations on fish stocks including mackerel, blue whiting and Norwegian spring-spawning herring.

Moreover, Norway and the EU cooperate on the fisheries management in international waters, together with other countries, in regional fisheries management organisations (RFMOs) such as the North East Atlantic Fisheries Commission (NEAFC), the Northwest Atlantic Fisheries Organization (NAFO), the International Commission for the conservation og Atlantic Tunas (ICCAT) and the Commission for the Conservation of Antarctic Marine Living Resources (CCAMLR).

EU policy and cooperation on the area of fisheries

The Common Fisheries Policy (CFP) is a set of rules for the management of the EU’s fishing fleets and for conserving fish stocks. The CFP gives all EU fishing fleets equal access to EU waters and fishing grounds, and allows fishermen to compete fairly.[1] It also constitutes the basis for the EU’s cooperation with third countries and in regional fisheries management organisations (RFMOs).    

In 2013, a reform of the CFP was adopted. The new and reformed Common Fisheries Policy aims to ensure that fishing and aquaculture are environmentally, economically and socially sustainable and that they provide a source of healthy food for EU citizens.

In order to prevent overfishing and overcapacity in the EU fleets, the reformed policy introduced new principles for managing fisheries in the EU in order to safeguarding stock reproduction for high long-term yield (MSY). The adoption of multi-annual plans, new technical regulations, regionalisation, and most importantly the landing obligation, are important tools under the CFP, which are currently under implementation.

The reform of the CFP has contributed to bridge the gaps between EU and Norwegian fisheries management.

Veterinary regulation

In the field of veterinary regulations Norway are fully harmonised with EU through the EEA Agreement, thus forming a part of EU's internal market for fish and fish products. The veterinary regulations apply to all seafood production regulations, ie feed/input products, fish health and fish welfare, by-products and food safety. This mean, among other things, free movement of all fish products and live fish within the EEA area, ie without veterinary border control between Norway and EU. Norway also constitutes as the EU's external border with third countries.

Norway is participating in regulatory developments in the veterinary field in the internal market and incorporates new regulations on a continuous basis. This continuous and coordinated regulatory development is important for the Norwegian fisheries and aquaculture industry. Norway participates in the EU's Food Chain and Animal Health Comitee (PAFF) ant its working groups. Norway has observer status in the working groups and actively participate with input but does not have voting rights.

Aquaculture in the EU

Aquaculture is a fast-growing source of the production of seafood. In the EU, aquaculture in is regulated by the Common Fisheries Policy. The aquaculture industry employs nearly 85 000, and the production has for several years amounted to 1.3 million tonnes.

Nearly 68% of the seafood consumed in the EU is imported. The demand for seafood is increasing, in the EU and globally, and while wild seafood resources are finite, the increase in the production of seafood must come from aquaculture. Over the recent years, the EU Commission launched strategies, guidelines and measures to enable sustainable development of the EU aquaculture industry.

[1] EU Commission: