International Council for the Exploration of the Sea
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Norwegian Sea ecoregion – fisheries overview

posted on 2024-01-25, 08:03 authored by ICESICES

The largest landings in this ecoregion are by Norway, the Russian Federation (Russia henceforth), Faroe Islands, and Iceland, mainly by pelagic fisheries. Other nations also have fisheries in the area. The number of fishing vessels is declining while the size of the remaining vessels is increasing. The annual catch in the ecoregion has varied between 700 000 tonnes to over 2 million tonnes.

The pelagic fisheries, using purse seine and pelagic trawls, account for the largest catches by weight and target Norwegian spring-spawning (NSS) herring (her.27.1-24a514a), blue whiting (whb.27.1-91214), mackerel (mac.27.nea), and other pelagic species. The largest demersal fishery targets cod (cod.27.1-2), haddock (had.27.1-2), and saithe (pok.27.1-2) using bottom trawls, purse‑seine, Danish seine and gillnets, and to a lesser extent hook and line gear. Smaller fisheries target other gadoid species, Greenland halibut (ghl.27.1-2), and beaked redfish (reb.27.1-2). Landings of pelagic species within the ecoregion in the last decades have been variable. The demersal fisheries, dominated by cod, display less pronounced fluctuations than the pelagic fisheries. Information about discards is sparse, but the total weight of discards is considered low in both the pelagic and the demersal fisheries. Harp seals and minke whales are hunted in the region.

Status summaries of Norwegian Sea stocks relative to ICES maximum sustainable yield (MSY) approach and precautionary approach (PA) are known for about 42% of the 19 stocks assessed by ICES in this ecoregion. Only 21% of the stocks are fished below FMSY, accounting for less than 1% of the total catch. 21% of the stocks have a biomass above MSY Btrigger, accounting for 86% of the total catch. Demersal stocks have shown a trend of declining fishing mortality since the mid‑1990s, followed by a sharp increase in 2019, largely driven by the exploitation pattern of redfish. In 2021 the average F/FMSY ratio was close to 1. The mean SSB/MSY Btrigger ratio of demersal stocks has been decreasing over the last decade, but mean SSB remains above MSY Btrigger and increased in 2021. The average F/FMSY ratio for pelagic stocks has fluctuated slightly above 1 since 2005. The mean SSB/MSY Btrigger ratio for pelagic species has been well above 1 the last two decades though followed by a recent sharp decline, but remains above 1.

In addition to biomass removal, ecosystem effects of fisheries include abrasion, ghost fishing, and bycatch of protected, endangered, and threatened species.

Supporting data used in the Norwegian Sea fisheries overview can be accessed at


Published under the auspices of the following ICES Steering Group or Committee

  • ACOM
  • FRSG


ICES Advice: Fisheries overviews

Recommended citation

Norwegian Sea ecoregion – fisheries overview. In Report of the ICES Advisory Committee, 2022. ICES Advice 2022, section 12.2.