Within the boundaries which govern the Joint Norwegian-Russian Fisheries Commission, Norway and Russia jointly manage the important fish species as North-East Arctic cod, haddock, capelin and Greenland halibut. The parties agree upon annual total quotas for these joint stocks and their distribution between Norway, Russia and third countries. The two countries also exchange information on the size of the national quotas (number of individuals) for king crab and on the condition of other stocks.
The stipulation of the total quota for the various joint fish stocks has been and remains a key element of the annual negotiations between Norway and Russia. The negotiations are based on ICES' scientific recommendations. Up to 1980, the ICES recommended one specific quota level for each stock. In 1981, a new scheme was introduced involving several alternative recommendations. The 1995 United Nations Fish Stock Agreement introduced the concept of the Precautionary Approach as a principle for fisheries management. The very first precautionary reference points for North-East Arctic cod were established in 1998 and work started on developing joint harvesting strategies with related codes of conduct for the stipulation of total quotas for this fish stock.
The Commission adopted a harvesting strategy for live marine resources in 2002; a strategy which came into effect from 2004. This strategy paves the way for long-term, sustainable stocks, a high degree of stability in the total quota from year to year and full exploitation of all available information on the condition of the stocks. The reference points and code of conduct for the Precautionary Approach have subsequently been fine-tuned, based on experience and new knowledge gained.
Capelin, a species with a short life span, is a key species in the Barents Sea ecosystem, as fodder for cod. The code of conduct for quota stipulation takes such conditions into account, implying that the total quota is established such that it allows for a 95% probability that at least 200,000 tons of capelin spawn every year.
During the period from 1991 to 2009, and with the exception of research catches and a limited level of direct fishing for the Norwegian coastal fishing fleet, there was a prohibition on direct fishing of Greenland halibut. In 2010, the parties reached their first agreement for a joint assessment of stocks, the establishment of a total quota and how it should be distributed.
Every year, the parties agree upon mutual rights for exploitation of the jointly managed fish resources. The two countries have established equal access to selecting quotas in each other’s waters for fishing of joint stocks. The annual decisions reached by the Joint Norwegian-Russian Fisheries Commission include provisions on maximum fishing volumes, reporting obligations and licensing of fishing vessels when fishing in the waters of the other country.
The parties have reached agreements regarding a prohibition on fish discarding, a minimum size for cod, haddock and Greenland halibut and a minimum mesh width for bottom trawls. The parties have also agreed upon the use of a sorting grid for cod and shrimp trawlers, criteria and guidelines for closing and opening fishing grounds and conversion factors for key fish products.