Sustainable use of resources

Right from the first tiny settlement about 10,000 years ago, adaptation to marine resources, especially fishing, has been a deciding factor for settlement patterns and economic development along the coast. It was necessary to adapt to sometimes powerful natural fluctuations. However, with the huge technological developments in the fisheries fleet, both nationally and internationally, in the course of the 20th century, the main challenge very quickly became to adapt to and regulate the catch in relation to the natural supply.

This has been, and continues to be, a very demanding and complicated process, affected by the fact that the accelerating growth of the fishing fleet and the development of new technology have advanced a lot faster than the development of economic and biological understanding, and often with necessary international agreements lagging considerably behind.

Important lessons have however been learnt after the collapse of the North Atlantic herring fishery in c.1970 and the catastrophic overfishing of the cod population off Newfoundland. As a result, over the last 30–40 years there has been significant progress in the scientific understanding and surveying of resources, the establishment of a new maritime law regime, and a steadily increasing number of international agreements. There are still enormous challenges relating to, for example, the coastal cod and the North Sea cod, while the herring population has been able to build up again to pre-collapse levels.

The extensive sea area that Norway governs is among the world’s most productive. Production of Norwegian seafood is around three million tons per year, of which about a quarter is farmed fish. Most of this output ends up on the world market. Sustainable management thus has great economic significance not only for coastal Norway, but also for the world, at a time when global food sources are under pressure.
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