Nofima's researchers are clear that the current regulations for landing fish hamper efficiency. They also know what it will take to curb accusations of cheating.
How much fish is taken out of the sea and how should fishermen and the fishing industry ensure correct and fair settlements for fish? Nofima has been researching this since 2015.
The normal and legal way of receiving fish is for fish reception centres to weigh catches manually. It has been claimed that manual weight corrections have been used in negotiations between sellers and buyers in quayside offices.
“It is time to ask why in 2017 one is sticking with a manual system when there are automated systems that can report directly from the quayside to the authorities in real-time,” says Silje Kristoffersen, a senior researcher at Nofima. She has led the research into two key issues: finding the correct conversion factor between round and gutted weights, and how quota settlements should be conducted.
Conversion factor of 1.5
International standards require official fishery statistics to be stated as the weight of round, ungutted fish. All cod used to be sold ungutted, or round. It was either delivered gutted or gutted onshore by the fishermen before it was sold to the fish buyers.
Conversion factors are used when calculating round weight, which vary depending on fish species and products. The conversion factor is the actual difference in weight before and after gutting. This means that all fish that are delivered gutted are converted to their round weight based on the applicable conversion factor. The purpose of this is to register the total amount of fish that is being taken out of the sea.
Following negotiations with, among others, Russia, the official conversion factor for cod has been set at 1.5 for gutted, headless fish. This is an average calculation for the year as a whole. In the spring, when the coastal fleet catches 80% of its cod quota, this conversion factor is too low in relation to the actual ratio between round and gutted fish. At this time of the year, the cod may have a lot in its stomach and also be full of roe or milk. This results in the fish buyer paying for fish waste at the rate they pay for cod. Another challenge is that when the factor is greater than 1.5, the fishermen have less gutted fish to sell.
“We believe it would be more correct to adjust the calculation using a dynamic conversion factor,” says Kristoffersen.
A dynamic conversion factor is calculated based on the ratio between the weight before and after gutting. It ensures that the settlement between the fisherman and fish buyer is made on the basis of the correct quantity of gutted fish.
“Our recommendation is that a conversion factor of 1.5 is always used when settling quotas based on gutted weight. This avoids the fisherman losing quota and puts the coastal fleet on an equal footing with the Norwegian and international ocean-going fishing fleet,” she says.
Widespread suspicion of cheating
Given that the regulations present fisherman and fish buyers with challenges in the high season, the parties compensate for this by adjusting the weight entered on the contract of sale. This can result in the rules being bent when the inspectors are not on the quayside.
The Directorate of Fisheries’s regulations on landing and contracts of sale require catches to be kept separate and gutted in turn until the contract of sale has been signed. This can make production inefficient and expensive compared with being able to collect a sufficient quantity of fish in bulk before production starts. Nofima’s researchers documented this in 2016 in the first part of the project.
“A dynamic conversion factor will ensure the settlement between the fisherman and fish buyer is correct. An automated weighing system can be checked by the Norwegian Fishermen’s Sales Organisation and the Directorate of Fisheries, and this will therefore make it far easier for resource inspectors to put a figure on the correct catch quantity,” says Kristoffersen.
The researchers have tested out new systems at two different landing facilities, one in Bø in Vesterålen and one on Måsøy in Vest-Finnmark. Different system providers and the Norwegian Metrology Service have also been involved. With the new system, the round catch weight of each individual vessel is shown on a display on the fish reception centre’s wall as the fish is landed. The vessel can then go straight back out to continue fishing or possibly enjoy an effective rest period, instead of having to wait around for their catch to be gutted.
“The system is very difficult to manipulate. It is impossible for the fisherman or fish buyer to adjust the figures afterwards. With the help of this system, the Directorate of Fisheries, the Norwegian Fishermen’s Sales Organisation, and other stakeholders can access deliveries in real-time, and are able to see any discrepancies for themselves, for example if there are big differences in dynamic factors from reception centre to reception centre,” explains the senior researcher.
Kristoffersen and her colleagues at Nofima therefore have the following recommendations:
- The year round use of approved automated systems at fish reception centres should be permitted.
- Automated systems should be permitted on a level footing with the traditional reception of fish.
- When automated systems are used, the following practices are recommended:
- Using a dynamic factor for converting from round to gutted weight, the gutted weight appears on the contract of sale.
- Permitting the mixing of catches after weighing, permitting the mixing of catches before contracts of sale are written.
- Conducting quota settlements using a factor of 1.5 of gutted weight.
- Using a 10% test for size distribution in the contract. Or apportioning size after the contract has been written.
- Online reporting of gross and gutted weight, as well as dynamic biological factors should be reported to the Norwegian Fishermen’s Sales Organisation.
- Online reporting of individual weighing-ins and biological yield should be reported to the Directorate of Fisheries.
- The Directorate of Fisheries should be able to check reports on the quayside without the involvement of a third party.
The project was carried out at the companies Hovden Fiskeindustri AS and Tobø Fisk AS on behalf of Fiskeriparken AS in Vesterålen, with the support of the Norwegian Fishermen’s Association, the Norwegian Seafood Federation and the Norwegian Fishermen’s Sales Organisation. The funding came from the Norwegian Seafood Research Fund.