Less cod in Barents Sea must be followed by reduced quotas, researchers say

By Atle Staalesen, The Independent Barents Observer - June 14, 2017
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Fishing boat on the Barents Sea in Norway's arctic region in winter. Blowing snow on the rocky headland behind. (Getty)
A fishing boat on the Barents Sea in Norway’s Arctic. After years of record cod hauls, Barents Sea fisherman in both Norway and Russia may soon see quota cuts. (Getty)

After years with record-beating cod fishing, Russian and Norwegian fishermen might next year have to cut their catch by 20 percent.

The International Council for the Exploration of the Sea recommends that the cod quota in the Barents Sea next year does not exceed 712,000 tonnes. This is a reduction of more than 170,000 tonnes compared to this year’s quota, the Norwegian Institute of Marine Research informs.

In 2017, the cod quotas in the Barents Sea amounted to 890,000 tonnes. The cod quotas in the region are split by Norwegian and Russian fisheries.

“We are experiencing a natural decline in Atlantic cod stocks, which we need to take into consideration,” Research Director Geir Huse says in a press release.

The proposed cuts in quotas come after several years of boosting cod stocks in the region. In 2013, the total cod quotas reached its all time high with 1,021 million tonnes. The following years, the quotas were slightly reduced, but still remained on a historical high.

In year 2010, the cod quota in the region was only 430,000 tonnes, figures from Patchwork Barents show.

The high quota levels in recent years can mostly be attributed to the good cod year classes for 2004 and 2005, Geir Huse says. The Marine Research Institute still underlines that the cod stocks in the Barents Sea remain prosperous.

“The stock contains many older and large individuals,” says researcher Bjarte Bogstad.

The researchers argue that also quotas on haddock, saithe and Greenland halibut should be reduced in 2018.

The main fish stocks in the Barents Sea are regulated by the Joint Norwegian-Russian Fisheries Commission after recommendations from researchers. Quotas for 2018 will be set in a Commission meeting due October.