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It has been slow going in the Norwegian fishery for Calanus finmarchicus. One reason may be that the fishing vessels – some more than others – fish for other species during the period when Calanus finmarchicus fishing is supposed to take place.

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Anne-May Johansen  

Read in Norwegian

The keyword is profitability. 

“Fishing boat owners may find themselves in a position where they have to choose which species they want to prioritise. For the individual fishing vessels, the decision to participate in the Calanus finmarchicus fishery or other fisheries will depend on the relative profitability between Calanus finmarchicus and other available fisheries. They then choose the one that is most profitable”, says Nofima scientist Egil Hogrenning.

He has led a study on the Norwegian fishery for the small copepod – which bears the Latin name Calanus finmarchicus

Commercial fishing permits

The Calanus finmarchicus stocks in Norwegian and international waters is enormous. In the Norwegian Sea alone, the estimated stock amounts to 33 million tonnes. Historically, however, fishing for copepods in Norway has been very limited. Calanus AS, which produces the dietary supplement Zooca, has been conducting trial fishing for the species. The company has also had a 5000-tonne trial fishing permit for Calanus finmarchicus.However, the Norwegian authorities want to harvest more of hitherto scarcely utilised marine species at lower trophic levels. Commercial fishing permits were therefore recently issued to facilitate greater utilisation of copepods. However, the permits have been scarcely utilised so far. In 2020, no deliveries of Calanus finmarchicus were made in Norway. In 2021 and 2022, Calanus finmarchicus copepods were landed, but the total quota was hardly filled. Many fishing vessels have been granted fishing permits, but only three of them landed copepods over this 2 year period.

“We have studied the operational basis of the licensed vessels, and based on this, we have discussed conditions that can determine whether these vessels will conduct copepod fishing”, says Egil Hogrenning.

The figure shows the development in the Norwegian Calanus finmarchicus fishery from 2004 to 2022. Illustration: Nofima

The prospect of profit is crucial

According to the report, the prospect of profit from the Calanus finmarchicus fishery will be largely decisive for future copepod fishing.  

“In the near future, the fishing activity for Calanus finmarchicus will probably depend on the permitted fishing areas, as well as how much can be fished in the areas, but also just as much on the development of fishing gear and the demand for Calanus finmarchicus”, says Egil Hogrenning.

In addition, the licensed fishing vessels’ opportunities to participate in other fisheries may be decisive regarding the level of activity.

Copepod fishing activity may be affected by other fisheries

The fishing season for some species coincides with when the Calanus finmarchicus fishing period is supposed to take place in the spring and summer months. The mackerel and spring-spawning Norwegian herring fisheries have a seasonal profile that falls outside the assumed copepod fishing season. 

“From this perspective, it can therefore be argued that vessels that mainly catch these species will not have to make any major adjustments in order to participate in the Calanus finmarchicus fishery. From this perspective, such vessels will be better equipped to participate”, says Hogrenning, adding: 

“For such vessels, fishing for Calanus finmarchicus can be seen as a supplement to other fishing activities and therefore contribute to better capacity utilisation.” 

According to the research report, it is more likely that vessels involved in fishing for species such as coley, haddock, and to some extent cod will find themselves in a situation where they must make adjustments if they are to participate in the Calanus finmarchicus fishery. 

“These vessels will probably have to consider to a greater extent whether it is possible for them to combine Calanus finmarchicus fishery with the other species they are fishing for, without this having a negative impact on profitability”, says the scientist.

Rearrange, intensify or sacrifice other fisheries

According to the scientist, the alternatives to adaptation seem to be to rearrange, intensify or sacrifice other fisheries. But these aren’t necessarily good alternatives.“It is not the case, however, that a commercial adjustment involving an operating intensity that maximises the vessel’s profits would be economically desirable; intense fishing due to lack of operational catch time can degrade quality and limit value creation from the resource. An activity in Calanus finmarchicus fishery can therefore affect value creation from other resources”, the report states.

“A similar impact may arise if fishing for other species is sacrificed in favour of Calanus finmarchicus”, the scientist points out.

Facts about the fishery: 

  • In the period from 2004 to 2013, annual landings of Calanus finmarchicus in Norway were often in the region of 100 tonnes. In some years, however, very little or no Calanus finmarchicus was landed. 
  • From 2013 to 2018, landings strongly increased, and in 2018, as much as 1362 tonnes of Calanus finmarchicuswere landed. 
  • In 2019, however, far less Calanus finmarchicus was landed
  • In 2020, the total quota was set at 254,000 tonnes, but not a single catch of Calanus finmarchicus was landed during this year.
  • In both 2021 and 2022, more than 1000 tonnes of Calanus finmarchicus were landed in Norway.
  • Calanus finmarchicus is a huge resource that is an important food source for most fish species in our ocean areas. It is particularly important in an early phase of the cod’s life and for pelagic species. However, the stipulated quota does not amount to more than one thousandth of the estimated Calanus finmarchicus stock of 33 million tonnes in the Norwegian Sea. 

Facts about the research:

  • ‘A study of the Norwegian fishery for Calanus finmarchicus’ was organised as part of the SFI Harvest research project.
  • The project focuses on responsible harvesting and processing of underutilised species at lower trophic levels. 
  • The project is funded by the Research Council of Norway.


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