Article | Last updated: 2015-03-23 | Ministry of Trade, Industry and Fisheries
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.
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.
EU policy and cooperation in the area of fisheries
The EU’s Common Fisheries Policy is the linchpin of cooperation in this area. It regulates management, the size of fishing fleets, controls and state aid taking as its starting point the fact that fish stocks move between different countries’ jurisdictions, so that the fisheries management regime in one country affects neighbouring countries.
However, the Common Fisheries Policy has not produced the intended results. The main problem is that many stocks are in poor condition while fleet capacity is still far too large. As a result, profitability in the fisheries industry is very low, and there is heavy dependence on state aid. This is why the European Commission in July 2011 presented a proposal for a comprehensive new fisheries policy for the ten-year period 2013–22. The proposal emphasises the importance of sustainable fisheries and makes it mandatory to manage stocks with the objective of achieving maximum sustainable yield. Other proposed measures are the gradual introduction of a discard ban, the introduction of transferable fishing concessions in all member countries and the phasing out of state aid for scrapping fishing vessels. In addition, a greater degree of regionalisation is proposed in order to reduce micromanagement from Brussels.
Norway supports the Commission’s reform proposal, and is particularly interested in the introduction of a discard ban in EU waters and a more effective structural approach to address overcapacity.
In the spring of 2009, the EU adopted a new aquaculture strategy. The reason for this was that, although some of the goals had been reached, especially those on providing safe and wholesome food and ensuring fish health and welfare, the goal of increasing production and employment levels in the industry had not been achieved. Meanwhile, global production has increased markedly. Globally, aquaculture is the fastest growing food production sector, while the total production in the EU has stood still at 1.3 million tonnes a year. In a world where the demand for seafood is increasing rapidly and where this increase can only be made in aquaculture, it is vital to address this situation.
Fisheries cooperation between Norway and the EU
The starting point for the fisheries cooperation between the EU and Norway is a framework agreement of 1980, on the basis of which total allowable catches and fishery annual fishery arrangements are agreed for joint fish stocks in the North Sea. Under these agreements, Norway and the EU also exchange quotas for stocks outside the North Sea. This means that the EU may receive quotas for stocks in Norway’s economic zone in the North Sea and in the Barents Sea and off Jan Mayen, while Norway may be given quotas in the EU zone in the North Sea, to the west of the British Isles and off Greenland. In addition to the quota negotiations, other management issues and cooperation on controls are also discussed.
In recent years, the consultations have focused particularly on issues relating to patterns of harvesting and cooperation on controls between Norway and the EU, with a view to reducing discards and combating illegal, unregulated and unregistered (IUU) fishing, which was for instance a problem in the Barents Sea a few years ago.
In addition, Norway and the EU come together in multilateral negotiations on stocks including mackerel, blue whiting and Norwegian spring-spawning herring. Moreover, Norway and the EU cooperate on fisheries management in international waters, together with other countries, through regional organisations, such as the North East Atlantic Fisheries Commission (NEAFC) and the Northwest Atlantic Fisheries Organization (NAFO).
Trade in fish and fish products
Under Protocol 9 of the EEA Agreement and other bilateral agreements, Norway enjoys exemption from duty on its trade with the EU in several whitefish products and reduced tariffs on many other products. However, 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 since the recent EU enlargements and the discontinuation of EFTA free trade agreements with the new EU members, including many countries in Eastern Europe.
Protocol 9 also regulates other areas, and includes a provision on equal access to the parties’ ports and a prohibition on quantitative restrictions on imports. It also seeks to limit the use of anti-dumping measures and countervailing duties, but this provision has very limited effect in practice.
The lack of protection against trade policy measures of this kind has important implications for Norway’s trade in farmed salmon trade, where the EU, for a period of 20 years, either maintained anti-dumping measures against Norwegian fish or threatened to introduce such measures. Today, the Norwegian fish farming industry does not face barriers to trade in the EU market apart from ordinary customs duty. For Norway, this means that normal trading conditions have once again been established for our most important market.