How Norway became a world-leader in sustainable fishing

For centuries, our fishing industry has been vital to our livelihood, but how has it evolved to make us one of the world leaders in sustainable seafood?

The timeline

Stone Age
Rock carvings show images of fishing for halibut from skin boats.
875
Egil's Saga contains early reference to cod fishing.
1001
Leiv Eiriksson discovers America, sailing with supplies of stockfish.
1100
Dried fish has been exported to Europe since the 1100s.
1300
Hanseatic traders develop exports of stockfish from Northern Norway via Bergen to Europe.
1692
First ship laden with clipfish sets sail from Norway.
1700
Pomors in north-western Russia trade corn for fish with fishermen in northern Norway.
1900
The Institute of Marine Research logo black&white
The Institute of Marine Research is founded in Norway. The research institute is vital in the monitoring of cod stocks and the regulation of our fisheries.

The Norwegian Directorate of Fisheries is established in the same year, which the first Norwegian marine research vessel, Michael Sars, sets sail.
1908
The first trawling act is adopted and this slows down the development of Norwegian trawl fishing.
1920
Despite major resistance, the number of motorised fishing vessels increases to 6,000.
1926
Norges fiskarlag logo
The Norwegian Fishermen’s Association is founded as the national trade union for Norwegian fishermen.
1934
Modernisation of the fleet continues as the purse seine fishing boat ‘Signal III’ from Rogaland is the first Norwegian fishing vessel to use a sonar system to locate fish.
1938
The Norwegian government passes the Raw Fish Act, giving fishermen a monopoly, through their own sales organisation, on first sales of certain fish species within geographical areas. This helps ensure relative uniformity and stable prices along our coast.
1946
Norwegian Ministry of Fisheries and Coastal Affairs logo
Reidar Carlsen of the Labour party becomes the Minister of Fisheries, making Norway the first country in the world to have one. At the same time, a Ministry of Fisheries is formed.
1957
‘Ola Ryggefjord’ from Havøysund is the first Norwegian vessel to use a power block or purse seine winch, a device which significantly increases the capacity of purse seine fishing.
1959
The North East Atlantic Fisheries Commission (NEAFC) is formed. This is one of several important forums for international cooperation concerning negotiations over shared resources.
1962
The first factory trawler, ‘M/TR Longva’ is built in Norway.
1972
The quota system was first implemented.
1977
Map showing the fishery protection zone
A 200 mile fisheries protection zone around Norway is introduced. Within this zone, Norway has exclusive rights to the extraction of natural resources.
1982
The UN’s the Law of the Sea treaty is opened for signing. This international agreement regulates traffic and economic activity on the open seas, and the rights of coastal states to nearby maritime zones.
1984
The system of opening and closing fishing zones in the Norwegian and Barents Sea was introduced.
1987
A ban on fish discards was introduced in Norway. This ban initially covered cod and haddock in the economic zone north of 62°N, but this has been expanded since.
1989
Cod fishing was brought to a halt on 18th of April 1989, followed by the imposition of fishing quotas on the coastal fleet the next year.
1991
Norge logo black&white
The Norwegian Seafood Export Council (NSEC) was founded. In 2012, the NSEC changes its name to the Norwegian Seafood Council.
1994
The Norwegian Seafood Federation is founded. This brings together the entire seafood sector under one umbrella organisation.
2011
MSC logo black&white
Norway receives acknowledgment of its commitment to sustainability when the final wild cod and haddock fisheries are certified as sustainable by MSC.
2015
The total Norwegian seafood export is valued at NOK 74.5 billion. Of this, the export from the codfish industry is valued at NOK 13 billion.