Fishing with Norway – do the Northern Agreements benefit Scotland and the UK?


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THE EU HAS SIGNED so-called Northern Agreements with Norway, the Faroe Islands and Iceland to allow its fleets to fish in their waters in return for the right of the other party’s fleet to fish in EU waters, although the agreement with Iceland was suspended by Iceland some years ago.

These agreements are limited and defined in scope. They do not represent the unified management of the two parties’ combined Exclusive Economic Zones in the way that the EEZs of EU member states are managed through the CFP. Rather, each party is responsible for setting TACs for its own EEZ and then agrees with the other party that specified amounts of particular fish may be landed by the other party from defined fishing zones. In the case of the EU, the fishing opportunities secured through these agreements are then allocated to the fleets of its various members in the same way as quota for EU waters is.

The UK has now left the EU and so is no longer a party to these Northern Agreements by virtue of its membership of the EU. However, for the duration of the Transition Period the UK remains subject to the CFP and likewise it has also signed interim agreements to maintain current arrangements with neighbours such as Norway. Now, just as it is seeking to forge a fisheries agreement with the EU on a new basis, so it will need to consider whether it is in interests to reach new agreements with other neighbours such as Norway to replace the existing ones.

Before rushing to sign such new agreements, it might be a good idea to review how the existing ones have worked for the UK in the past. The most substantial one of these in terms of tonnages landed is the one signed with Norway; and this article will look at what the agreement has allowed the Norwegian fleet to land from EU waters whilst the following article at what it has allowed EU fleets to land from Norwegian waters.

Source databases

It is possible to analyse the landings databases of the EU ( and Norway ( to see which national fleets have been catching what quantities of which fish where. There are, however, differences in the level of publicly accessible detail the two databases provide.

In the case of the EU, the database in its previous iteration recorded the alphanumeric code of the ICES rectangle where fish were caught and the fleet that caught them. This grid of rectangles is aligned with lines of latitude and longitude, with each rectangle measuring 1° longitude in the E-W direction and 30’ latitude in the N-S direction, and so, by overlaying a map of EEZ boundaries on to this grid, it is possible to assign landings from any ICES rectangle to the relevant EEZ. There are some inherent uncertainties in this approach — which are discussed at greater length in an upcoming article on,  What we know we don’t know — but they are quantifiable and the underlying EH99 database records show how great they are.

The Norwegian database does not record — or at least does not publicly reveal — the ICES rectangle from which landings were taken; but it does record EEZ and ICES Division. Table 1 shows average annual Norwegian landings between 2010 and 2016 (the period used for most comparisons in this series of articles) from the EU28 EEZ; and from all the ICES Divisions in which there is EU28 EEZ, i.e. the Divisions from which Norwegian landings from the EU28 EEZ must have been taken.

During the period in question, the UK was a member of the EU and the CFP and the UK EEZ was, so far as fishing was concerned, subsumed into an EU EEZ. The Norwegian database does not therefore differentiate between landings from the UK EEZ and from the EU27 EEZ. Furthermore, since the Norwegian database does not reveal the ICES rectangle of origin, it is not possible to allocate landings to EEZ in the way that it is (or was) for the EU database.

However, by cross-referencing the parallel series of Norwegian landings records—one for EEZ, the other for Division—presented in Table 1, it is possible to make estimates of landings from the UK EEZ. For the sake of simplicity, Tables 1 and 2exclude Division V (around the Faroes) because the EU27 has no EEZ in this Division and the UK only a very small proportion of it—although it does have some.

Table 1: Average annual Norwegian landings from EU EEZ 2010—16

All species or groups of species for which average annual landings from the EU EEZ exceeded 200 tonnes.

*Norwegian landings from these Divisions exclude landings from NEAFC regulated areas. 

Before moving on to allocate EU28 landings to the UK and EU27 EEZs, it is worth pointing out that average landings of 314.2 kt mean that the Norwegian fleet’s landings from just the EU EEZ exceed total landings by all the UK fleets bar the Scottish, are less than 100 kt short of Scottish landings and the only other EU fleets whose landings from the entire NE Atlantic exceed Norway’s landings from the EU EEZ are the French and Danish. Not joining the EU seems to have worked rather well for Norway!

For those divisions where the EU28 has EEZ, Norway’s own figures tell us that it landed 20.7 per cent of its tonnage from the EU28 EEZ.

To return to the question of how much Norway landed from the UK EEZ…

Table 2 provides a breakdown of the relative surface areas of the various national or supra-national EEZs in those ICES Divisions from which Norway lands fish and the EU27 and the UK have EEZ.

Table 2: Relative EEZ surface areas in Sub-areas IV, VI and VII

*Ignores NEAFC regulated international waters

**To be precise, the Norway’  per cent is shared with Faroe Islands, Iceland and IW 

but for the purposes of the current analysis all that really matters is that the UK share is small and there is no  EU27 EEZ

Your author freely admits the above percentages are rough and ready estimates. He has not worked into the wee small hours with a mapping tool but, given the uncertainties inherent in using relative surface areas to calculate landings — see what we know we don’t know — they are good enough for present purposes.

What do we find if we apply the above percentages to Norwegian landings from the various divisions?

Cod, a worked example

Norway landed 2.3 kt of cod from the eu28 eez from four divisions. 0.5 tonnes was from iiia – a 50/50 split between the eu27and Norway – and 0.9 kt was from ivb – 40 per cent eu27.

If iiia is 50 per cent eu27, then apportioning landings on the basis of relative surface areas would result in landings of 0.25 kt from the eu27 eez, and if ivb is 40 per cent eu27, then, on the same basis, landings from the eu27 eez would be 0.36 kt.

The eu27 has no eez in iia or iva, so whatever cod norway landed from those divisions was landed from the uk eez. Norway landed 2.3 kt from the eu28 eez, the above method calculates that 0.61 kt was landed from the eu27 eez, which suggests 1.65 kt was landed from the uk eez.

What the eu gives…

The same method can be applied to all the other norwegian landings. Table 3 presents the results of doing so. For the sake of brevity, and since this article is not an answer to a school exam question, the detailed workings are not shown; but if any reader would like to see them the author would be happy to share.


*based on UK 2018 average first sale prices, DEFRA

Table 3 suggests that around 69.4 per cent of the average annual tonnage landed by the Norwegian fleet from the EU28between 2010 and 2016 was landed from the UK EEZ.

A value has been placed on the fish landed by the Norwegian fleet from the UK EEZ by applying average 2018 UK prices to the tonnages landed. Although some 2019 prices are available, 2018 is the most recent year for which whole-year average prices are available from DEFRA for a wide range of species. The rationale for using UK prices and 2018 prices rather than prices for the years in which the fish were landed is that the primary objective is to provide an indication of the opportunities and value that could be secured by the UK industry, not a historical review of what these landings were worth to the Norwegian one.

Values have not been calculated for certain species either because it is difficult to obtain UK market prices for them or because the category is a basket of species and without details of the composition of the groups it is difficult to calculate a reasonable ‘average’ price. The figure of £136.4 million is therefore, at least in this respect, an incomplete and minimum estimate.

Using the same [UK 2018 prices], the 96.11 kt landed from the EU27 EEZ was worth £19.4 million; and on that basis 87.5 per cent of the value landed by the Norwegian fleet from the EU28 EEZ was from the UK EEZ

The present article does not analyse in detail whether Norwegian landings were from the Scottish EEZ or elsewhere in the UK EEZ but the breakdown provided in Table 2 shows that the two Divisions from which the Norwegian fleet landed the largest quantities were IIa and IVa. The only EU28 EEZ in these Divisions is Scottish. The Division from which the Norwegians landed the third largest tonnage was IVb. So far as the UK EEZ is concerned, this is split between Scotland and England, with the larger part being English. The UK EEZ in VIa, from which the Norwegians landed its fourth largest tonnage is very largely Scottish, with a small portion being Northern Irish. In short, the bulk, though not all, of the fish landed by Norway from the UK EEZ are likely to have been landed from the Scottish EEZ.

So much for the give—the UK has given 218.10 kt and £136.4 million; the EU27 96.11 kt and £19.4 million—the following article will reveal what the EU27, the UK and Scotland have taken from the Norwegian EEZ in return.

Image of Norwegian fishing boat by cuemudgeon from Pixabay


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