Better protection for vulnerable species in the Barents Sea

Corals, fungi and other vulnerable species on the seabed are important for marine ecosystems, and are at risk for damage by fishing activity. New regulations will provide better protection for vulnerable seabed species in the Barents Sea (Photographer; Kristian Haugs/Fiskebåt).

In 2011 a restriction on fishing gear that could touch the seabed, such as bottom trawl, was introduced in specific areas in order to prevent damage to life on the seabed. This regulation has turned out to be insufficient in the Barents Sea and the new regulation introduces a ban on all ground fishing in ten areas in the Barents Sea.

The new regulation is based on a thorough review of seabed conditions, fishing activity and catch- and research data. The industry has also contributed with important information in the process.

The most important changes are:

Ten delimiting areas closed for all ground fishing

- A new division of areas where fishing with bottom gear can take place and areas where such fishing requires special license from the Directorate of Fisheries

- Regulations that secures a consideration on how new fishing gear and changed use of existing fishing gear affects the seabed.

The changes take effect July 1, 2019.

Dialogue with the industry

The rules are based on a thorough review of the bottom conditions, fishing activity and catch and research data. The authorities have also had meetings with the industry to get the most information possible.

- I particularly want to emphasize the good dialogue with the industry in this work. This has been crucial in order to put in place a balanced set of rules, which safeguards the protection and the economic interests of the industry, says the Norwegian Minister of Fisheries, Harald Tom Nesvik.

Both Greenpeace and Fiskebåt (The Norwegian Fishing Vessels Owners Assosiation) are well pleased that new rules will be in place to protect vulnerable species in the Barents Sea. Frida Bengtson in Greenpeace, says that this means an unprecedented amount, and that she is happy that the new rules are for who fishes in this sea area.

Bengtson is pleased that it will now be Norwegian governments to enforce the new rules.

- Participants in the voluntary agreement have done a very good job and the agreement encompasses vessels from all countries, says Bengtson.

Important principle

Bengtson emphasizes that the regulations provide a stronger protection of several new areas in the Barents Sea, and at the same time carry on an important principle that one must be careful in areas that have not been mapped.

- In a sea area that is as large as the Barents Sea, it is extremely important that one takes care of the environmental interests, says Bengtson.

The industry also welcomes the rules

The fishing industry is also well pleased that a regulatory framework is in place.

- It is good that the governments now have a set of rules around this so that we can arrange management of the Barents Sea. We have come up with our recordings, and we believe that this ensures a fine balance between protection and business activity, says Jan Ivar Maråk, debuty director of Fiskebåt.