How Norway became a world-leader in sustainable fishing

The fishing industry has been vital to our livelihood for centuries, 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.
1200
Herring features in Sturluson’s Kings’ Sagas.
1692
First ship laden with clipfish sets sail from Norway.
1808
The seas are rich with herring. Trading begins with Sweden, Germany and Russia.
1870
Herring crisis. Norwegians seek out alternative incomes.
1880
Norway sends 75 vessels to Iceland to assist with the catch.
1900
The Institute of Marine Research logo black&white
The Institute of Marine Research is founded in Norway. This research institute is vital for the monitoring of stocks and the regulation of our fisheries.
1900-1950
Herring returns and Norway’s catch volume increases to 1.3 million tonnes
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.

Around 70 canning factories are built in Stavanger. The sprat industry booms.
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.
1936
Logo Norges sildesalgslag (Black and white)
The Norges Sildesalslag (Norwegian Fishermen’s Sales organisation for pelagic fish) was founded following the merger of two fishing associations, Storsildlaget and Stor-og Vårsildlaget.
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.
1950
Nylon is introduced, strengthening our purse seines.
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.
1960
The stock of spawning herring collapses due to overfishing.
1962
The first factory trawler, ‘M/TR Longva’ is built in Norway.

500 purse seiners enable Norwegians to fish in open water, away from spawning herring.
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.
1991
Norge logo black&white
The Norwegian Export Seafood Council 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.
2009
MSC logo black&white
North Sea herring and Norwegian spring spawning herring achieve MSC Certification.
2015
Pelagic fish exported from Norway is valued at NOK 6.9 billion