Major stocks supporting fisheries in the Barents Sea are also shared stocks between Russia and Norway. A key challenge is to create the basis for an optimal and effective management regime for these shared fishery resources, including rational harvesting of cod and other important stocks. During the late 1970s, cooperation on management of shared fish stocks was instituted through the Joint Norwegian-Russian Fisheries Commission (JNRFC), formally established in 1975.
This long-standing bilateral cooperation is of critical importance to ensure sustainable fisheries in the Barents Sea. Its responsibilities include deciding: management strategies; levels of total allowable catch (TAC); TAC allocation between Russia and Norway; and technical measures regulating use of fishing gears; and implements systems to ensure that the fishing industry adheres to regulatory decisions. JNRFC stipulates reciprocal access to fisheries within national zones, and quota exchanges for shared and national stocks; it also decides catch quotas for third party fisheries conducted by non-coastal states.
Stocks are currently assessed through the International Council for the Exploration of the Sea (ICES) which provides scientific advice and contributes to sustainable management. JNRFC uses this advice to decide safe fishing quotas for Russia, Norway, and third-party countries. Annual quota agreements are also used to establish the effective regulatory measures, such as criteria for closures of fishing areas related to excessive capture of juvenile fish, or use of sorting grids in trawl fisheries.JNRFC sets fishing quotas according to rules established in the management plan for Northeast Arctic cod; this plan is designed to keep cod fishing mortality at a stable level that contributes to stability and predictability within the industry. Quotas for joint stocks of Northeast Arctic cod, haddock, and capelin are determined on the basis of agreed-upon, sustainable, management strategies.
TACs established through JNRFC are based on recommendations provided by ICES, at meetings where both Norwegian and Russian scientists participate; these scientists carry out joint surveys and other types of data collection activities. After TACs and their allocation have been decided, national management bodies — Federal Bureau of Fisheries in Russia, the Ministry of Fisheries and Coastal Affairs and the Directorate of Fisheries in Norway— further divide national TACs relative to fleet groups, individual vessel quota; they also decide which gear types may be utilized, etc.