Learning from Norwegian herring

By

Lindsey Partos, SeafoodSource contributing editor, reporting from Paris

Published on
February 7, 2010

Defining sustainability is one of the biggest challenges facing the global seafood industry, debated participants at last week’s Seafood Choices Alliance Seafood Summit in Paris.
 
For Dr. Reidar Toresen of the Institute of Marine Research in Norway, sustainability is rooted in three key points. Speaking at the Seafood Summit, Toresen said that knowledge of the ecosystems and resources linked to a fishery is crucial.
 
Secondly, a fishery management system needs to be in place that discusses, enforces and, essentially, can “control at sea.”
 
And, finally, politicians need to have the “ability and will to manage,” according to Toresen.
 
Toresen cited the success story of Norwegian spring-spawning herring. At the end of the 1960s, stocks of this popular Norwegian fish had collapsed following intensive fishing methods that had accelerated in ‘50s and ‘60s.

“Then the scientific world learned to carry out proper studies and to give strong advice; gradually, over a period of decades, the stock came back,” said Toresen. And then last April, the Marine Stewardship Council certified the Norwegian spring-spawning herring fishery as sustainable and well-managed.
 
According to the MSC, citing Norges Sildesalgslag, 113 seine vessels, 40 pelagic trawlers and 245 coastal purse-seine vessels fished for Norwegian spring-spawning herring in 2007.

Among the lessons learned with spring-spawning herring is the need for a harvest rule that is controlled at sea, said Toresen. Further, he suggested, is the need to closely follow stock estimates from the scientific community.

“It is also very important to have a minimum size landings rule,” underlined Toresen. “The landing size regulation related to less than 25 centimeters was very important in keeping the stocks up.”
 
As a result, the Norwegian spring-spawning herring catch had increased to 1.6 million metric tons by 2009.

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