Photo: Cecilie von Quillfeldt, Norwegian Polar Institute

The level of discarding in fisheries is not estimated, and discards are not accounted for in stock assessments. Both undersized fish and by-catch of other species can lead to discarding; fish of legal size but low market value are also subject to discarding to fill the quota with larger and more valuable species (known as high-grading).

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Northern minke whale (Balaenoptera acutorostrata). Photo: Ann Kristin Balto, Norwegian Polar Institute

Minke whale (Balaenoptera acutorostrata)

Management of the minke whale is based on the Revised Management Procedure (RMP) developed by the Scientific Committee of the International Whaling Commission. Inputs to this procedure are catch statistics and absolute abundance estimates. The present quotas are based on abundance estimates from survey data collected in 1989, 1995, 1996–2001, 2002–2007, and 2008–2013. The most recent estimates (2008–2013) are 89 600 animals in the Northeastern stock, and 11 000 animals for the Jan Mayen area, which is exploited by Norwegian whalers. The present (2016–2021) RMP quota of 880 animals annually is considered precautious, conservative, and protective for the minke whale population in the Northeast Atlantic. At present only Norway utilizes this quota.

Harp seals (Pagophilus groenlandicus)

Northeast Atlantic stocks of harp seals are assessed every second year by the ICES Working Group on Harp and Hooded Seals (WGHARP). The assessments are based on modelling, which provides ICES with sufficient information to give advice on both status and catch potential of the stocks. The applied population model estimates current total population size, incorporating historical catch data, estimates of pup production and historical values of reproductive rates. Modelled abundance is projected into the future to provide an estimate of future population size for which statistical uncertainty is provided for various sets of catch options. Russian aerial surveys of White Sea harp seal pup production conducted during the period 1998–2013 indicate a severe reduction in pup production after 2003. This could be due to changes in fecundity and/or changes in survival. The Barents Sea/White Sea population of harp seals is now considered data poor (available data for stock assessment older than 5 years). The population model provided a poor fit to pup production survey data; primarily due to the abrupt reduction after 2003. Nevertheless, to the model results were used to provide advice in 2017 (ICES 2016d). The total size of the population was estimated to be 1 408 200 (95% C.I. 1 251 680–1 564 320). A catch of 10 090 age 1+ animals, or an equivalent number of pups (where one 1+ seal is balanced by 2 pups), per year would sustain the 1+ population at present level over the 15-year period (2017–2032). Catches in recent years have been much lower than the quotas. Particularly after 2008, the last year that Russia hunted this population.

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Fishing boats. Photo: Stein Tronstad, Norwegian Polar Insitute

Total catches

Fishing has the largest anthropogenic impact on fish stocks in the Barents Sea, and thereby, on the functioning of the entire ecosystem. However, observed variations in both fish species and ecosystem are also strongly affected by climate and trophic interactions. During the last decade, catches of most important commercial species in the Barents Sea and adjacent waters of Norwegian and Greenland Sea varied around 1.5–3 million tonnes and has decreased in the last years (Figure 3.9.1.1).

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Fishing activity. Photo: Stein Tronstad, Norwegian Polar Institute

Fishing activity in the Barents Sea is tracked by the Vessel Monitoring System (VMS). Figure 3.9.4.1 show fishing activity in 2017 based on Russian and Norwegian data. VMS data offer valuable information about temporal and spatial changes in fishing activity. Figure 3.9.4.2 show the use of gear in 2017 and annual fishing intensity reported to the Norwegian fishery authorities in 2011-2017. The most widespread gear used in the Barents Sea is bottom trawl; but long lines, gillnets, Danish seines, and handlines are also used in demersal fisheries. Pelagic fisheries use purse seines and pelagic trawls. The shrimp fishery used special bottom trawls.

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Photo: Institute of marine research, Norway

Northern shrimp (Pandalus borealis)

Norwegian and Russian vessels harvest northern shrimp over the stock’s entire area of distribution in the Barents Sea. Vessels from other nations are restricted to trawling shrimp only in the Svalbard zone and the Loophole — a piece of international waters surrounded by the EEZs of Norway and Russia.

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