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 impacted 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 (Fig. 22.214.171.124.).
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. No overall TAC has been set for northern shrimp, and the fishery is regulated through effort control, licensing, and a partial TAC in the Russian zone only. The regulated minimum mesh size is 35mm.
Fishing activity in the Barents Sea is tracked by the Vessel Monitoring System (VMS). Figures 126.96.36.199-188.8.131.52 show fishing activity in 2017 based on Russian and Norwegian data. VMS data offer valuable information about temporal and spatial changes in fishing activity. 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.
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). Discarding is known to be a (varying) problem, e.g., in haddock fisheries where discards are highly related to the abundance of haddock close to, but below, the minimum legal catch size.
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.