Does the quota bonus scheme help extend the cod season throughout the year? On commission from the Ministry of Trade, Industry and Fisheries, Nofima has evaluated the fresh fish scheme based on assessments of economic, environmental and social sustainability.

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Under the fresh fish scheme, vessels that land fresh off-season catches will receive a quota bonus for cod. The purpose of the scheme is to extend fishing throughout the year and contribute to landing as much fresh fish as possible outside the main winter season – including species other than cod. As a result, it also contributes to activity in the onshore industry through the summer and autumn. 

In 2024, 8832 tonnes of cod have been set aside for the scheme, which will open for fishing on 1 July. The scheme is one of the few incentives aimed at providing the land-based fishing industry with a more even supply of raw materials so as to support year-round jobs.

The fresh fish scheme has established itself

But does the scheme work as intended? This is what scientists John R. Isaksen and Bent Dreyer at Nofima’s Department of Industrial Economics have been commissioned to evaluate. The scheme was last evaluated six years ago by Nofima’s industrial economics scientists.

“We have reviewed various aspects of the fresh fish scheme that help shed light on benefits and costs, and effects from a sustainability perspective. The conclusion is that the scheme works, but there is room for improvement. During the period that the fresh fish scheme has been in operation, somewhat larger quotas of fresh cod from the coastal fleet have been landed in the autumn. This is also related to the structure of the scheme, where start-up in recent years has been set for the second half of the year,” says John R. Isaksen. 

He is one of the authors of the report ‘The fresh fish scheme – a new evaluation’. 

“The scheme has now been in effect for more than 10 years and has become a central part of the coastal fleet’s cod regulation. This suggests that the scheme has established itself, although there is still some disagreement in parts of the industry about both the legitimacy and start-up date of the scheme,” the report states.

Four dimensions of sustainability

Sustainability is a complicated and complex concept. In the evaluation, a model has been developed to assess the effect of public regulations along the four main dimensions of sustainability.

  • With regard to financial sustainability, it is concluded that the fresh fish scheme has varying effects for the fleet, but has a positive effect on the processing stage and society.
  • The effect on environmental sustainability also varies, depending on the adaptation in the fleet stage: energy consumption is somewhat higher during off-season fishing, but more energy-efficient fishing gear is being used that also provides better raw material quality through greater use of long-lines rather than nets. 
  • The effect on social sustainability is positive in that the raw material, also from species other than cod, contributes to more processing, increased employment and year-round jobs in the onshore industry. 
  • More of the catch is processed onshore, there is less standstill and layoffs in the onshore industry, tax revenues increase, and even though the positive ripple effects of the fisheries are reduced in the ‘seasonal areas’, the scientists assume that they will increase in Finnmark, where catches that impact the scheme mainly take place and are landed. 
  • Institutional sustainability is part of the social sustainability that is important for the evaluation of public incentives. It draws attention to the extent to which the incentive has legitimacy among society and the actors it is intended to influence. The scheme is available to everyone and helps to ensure that quotas of other species are fished in the fleet groups to which they have been allocated. The administrative costs of the scheme are considered to be low. Therefore, the evaluation concludes that the scheme has high institutional sustainability.

Coastal cod

The issue surrounding the threatened stock of coastal cod was also part of the mandate for evaluating the fresh fish scheme. The scientists conclude that the nature of the problem is such that it takes more disciplines than just industrial economics to describe this challenge exhaustively. However, some relevant aspects of the fresh fish scheme, and how this may be of significance for coastal cod and coastal cod protection, are highlighted in the report. 

“The dilemma that the Director of Fisheries highlighted in the Autumn of 2022 Regulatory Meeting is easy to agree with: It is difficult to achieve strict coastal cod protection while at the same time wanting cod deliveries in the off-season period. It is a trade-off that must be resolved politically,” says John R. Isaksen.

He believes, however, that it will be advantageous for the fresh fish scheme if fishing mainly takes place in East Finnmark, where the proportion of coastal cod is less than that found along other parts of the coast.

Many variables

In the comprehensive report, the scientists state that the structure of the fresh fish scheme has many aspects that can be adjusted to improve its effect and adapted to the prevailing conditions. 

“Everything from the size of sales and bonus percentage, to when and who can fish under the scheme. When it comes to other adjustments that may contribute to increased landings of fresh fish, we primarily point out that the scheme can also be extended to those parts of the fishing fleet that catch cod. However, this requires a different structure than that used for conventional coastal fleets,” says John R. Isaksen.

Facts about the fresh fish scheme

  • The fresh fish scheme has existed since 2013 with varying sizes of sales and bonuses. 
  • The start of fishing in the fresh fish scheme is set for 1 July and the quota bonus in 2024 is 20 percent on a weekly basis. 
  • A total of 8832 tonnes of cod have been allocated to the fresh fish scheme in 2024, of which 7872 tonnes are distributed between vessels in closed groups and 960 tonnes are distributed between vessels in the open groups.
  • Coastal fishing vessels in open and closed groups with a cargo hold capacity of less than 500m³ fishing with conventional gear can participate in the scheme.
  • For vessels participating in closed or open groups, conditions for participation in the fresh fish scheme are that all catches must be delivered fresh as round or gutted fish. 

Source: Directorate of Fisheries 


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