Registered guides, whole fish, latest weapons in Norway’s efforts to keep foreign anglers honest

Norway wants fewer of its fish to get away.

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Norway is introducing new measures to ensure that less fish from recreational fisheries is wasted or smuggled out of the country. (Fiskeridirektoratet)

After doubling the penalty for fish smuggling this spring, Norway is prepared to impose further regulations aimed at combating a problem that during the first six months of 2019 saw customs agents seize more than 6 tons of fish at the country’s northernmost border crossings alone.

The fisheries ministry proposed the new rules on Monday and, if approved, the would permit anglers to remove their catch from Norway only if the fish were caught in the presence of a registered guide.

Anglers would continue to be permitted to take 20 kilograms (10 pounds) of fish out of the country, but a second rule change would require those fish to be whole (though they may be de-headed and gutted).

The requirement that fish be mostly whole is aimed at preventing anglers from keeping only the most valuable cuts of fish and throwing away the remains, most of which may still have commercial value.

While the limit will not be changed, a 10 kilogram limit for anglers who fish on their own will be eliminated.

“The goal is for people to understand that they shouldn’t be throwing out valuable food,” said Harald Nesvik, the fisheries minister.

The higher limit was intended as a way to nudge anglers towards registered guides, but according to customs authorities, 78 percent of people who had fish seized at the border had been fishing with a guide.

Half of Norway’s registered fishing guides are located in the northern part of the country. Some anglers’ associations in the region have suggested that foreigners be prevented from leaving with the country with fish.

Business groups, however, are against a total ban, and would like time for the rules to have an effect before taking further action.

In 2018, 6.5 tons of fish were seized at the borders. Though just a small fraction of Norway’s 1.1 million tons of legal seafood exports, customs agents report seizing large portions of filleted fish, mostly cod, leading to suspicions that organized smugglers are transporting their catch to other parts of Europe for retail sale.

In order to prevent organized smuggling, the 2018 changes extended the length of time that anglers must wait before they can again take fish out of the country from 24 hours to seven days.