NORWAY’S Fisheries Minister Elisabeth Aspaker has outlined a series of radical measures which she says are needed to improve the country’s fishing industry.
It was an industry, she said, beset by low profitability and a lack of adequate investment – and facing tough competition from overseas.
The minister (pictured) was speaking at the recent 2015 Congress of the Norwegian Fishermen’s Association and she pulled few punches on the challenges that lay ahead.
She told her audience at the Congress that it would set the fishing strategy for the nest 15 years – until 2030.
Much had changed, she said, since she took up her new post just over two years ago. Oil prices had halved, leading to a loss of jobs and lower investment, and Norway was experiencing a refugee stream of a size not seen since the end of World War Two.
It was important, therefore, to find new ways of strengthening the Norwegian economy. And she believed seafood could play a major role of helping to bring that about.
Aspaker said Norwegian seafood exports had been helped by a lower kroner, but this situation would not last forever and the country was facing tough competition from overseas.
Cyprus, for example, had exported cod, pollock and haddock worth 12 per cent more than last year.
‘There are many challenges we have to overcome when we are gearing ourselves up for the future.
‘For aquaculture, we must find answers to the challenges around feed, lice and escapes.’
For fishing there was the problem of taking out resources at a greater level than they could be replenished. Parts of the seafood industry generally had struggled with poor profitability and a lack of innovation.
Aspaker said since she took over she had helped stem the decline in Norway’s coastal or inshore fishing fleet and that work would continue.
She had also introduced a system of quota exchanges along with modernising regulations.
She now wanted to bring more flexibility to the current general fishing fleet, particularly in vessel design and the choice of fishing gear, and she wanted to introduce more and stronger research.
‘The fishing fleet will have greater freedom of choice,’ she added.
Another big problem was that venture capital did not regard fishing as an attractive investment opportunity and she wanted to change that.
The Minister said that she wanted to maintain market access within the European Union, adding that the deal struck in the summer with regard to mackerel and herring was a good start.
Aspasker, who also outlined new environmental measures on keeping the seas clean from waste and litter, concluded: ‘Norway will have a profitable fishing fleet.’