The Northern Agreements: who benefits most?

The Northern Agreements: who benefits most?

by Neil Stratton
article from Tuesday 26, May, 2020

THE PREVIOUS article in this series, The Northern Agreements: do they benefit Scotland and the UK?, examined the quantities of fish landed from UK and EU27 waters by the Norwegian fleet under the fishing agreement between the EU and Norway.  The present article will look at the other side of the coin: the quantities landed by the various EU fleets from Norwegian waters.

Unlike the Norwegian database, which does not record the ICES rectangles from which landings were taken, the previous iteration of the EU database recorded landings from each ICES rectangle by each of the fleets of its member states for every species of commercially caught fish. EH99 has trawled this database and presents its findings in the following article.  

Table 1 presents average annual landings  between 2010 and 2016 from the Norwegian EEZ by the relevant EU fleets for the 10 species landed in the greatest quantities.

Table 1: Average annual EU27 member fleet landings from Norwegian EEZ 2010—2016

Table 1 contd: Average annual UK fleet landings from Norwegian EEZ 2010—2016

Aide memoire: In the previous article it was estimated that Norway landed: 218.1 kt from the UK EEZ (69.4% of Norwegian total from EU EEZ) and 96.11 kt from the EU27 EEZ (30.6% of Norwegian total from EU EEZ).

Table 2, below, repeats Table 1; but for value rather than tonnage. As in other articles in this series the values are based on average UK first sale prices in 2018 (published by DEFRA) rather than local prices or prices for the year in question. The rationale for this is to provide a common basis for comparison and because the thrust of these articles is not what something was worth to this or that country in the past but what it might be worth to the UK in the future.

Table 2: Average annual EU27 member fleet landings from Norwegian EEZ 2010—2016, value

Table 2 contd: Average annual UK fleet landings from Norwegian EEZ 2010—2016, valueAide memoire: In the previous article it was estimated that the minimum value of Norwegian landings from: the UK EEZ was: £136.4 m (87.5% of Norwegian total from EU EEZ) and the EU27 EEZ was: £19.4 m (12.5% of Norwegian total from EU EEZ).

The species in the tables in these two articles landed by Norway from the EU EEZ and vice versa account for the vast majority of the fish caught in each-others’ waters, and, on that basis, although the Norwegian fleet landed well over twice the tonnage from EU waters that the EU lands from Norwegian waters, in terms of value the two parties took roughly the same amount from each-others’ waters (£159.9 m v. £155.8 m). Given the fact that certain Norwegian landings have not been valued and a price base has been used that did not actually apply in practice in any of the countries or years in question, the balance is very close. Is the EU’s Northern Agreement with Norway therefore a model business deal in which everyone’s a winner: we get a nice bit of Cod, they hoover up shedloads of Mackerel and Blue Whiting? 

Not so fast, balanced though it may be between the EU and Norway, it is far from balanced so far as the UK is concerned. Table 3 below sums up Tables 1 and 2 in the article and Table 3 of the previous article (The Northern Agreements: do they benefit…)

Table 3: Balie sheet

Just to help the reader spot who’s done well and who’s done badly out of the Agreement; deficits, i.e. where a fleet lands less than is landed from its own EEZ, whether in terms of absolute tonnage or percentage share, are highlighted in red, surpluses, in green. Guess who stacks up a whole column of red and who one of green?

In short Norway lands 191.3 kt more from the UK EEZ than the UK does from the Norwegian EEZ, whilst the EU27 lands 20.7 kt more from the Norwegian EEZ than Norway does from the EU27, whilst in terms of value Norway landed £105.8 m more of fish from the UK EEZ than the UK did from the Norwegian EEZ and EU27 landings from the Norwegian EEZ were worth £109.8 m more than Norwegian landings from the EU27 EEZ. 

How has this come about? It has happened because when it grants Norway’s fishermen the right to land fish from the EU EEZ the EU does not specify national EEZ, merely Sub-areas or Divisions. It leaves it to the Norwegians to decide where to fish and they go where the fish they want are—largely the UK EEZ. On the other hand, when it comes to divvying up the opportunities the Norwegians grant it in return, the EU applies its sacred principle of relative stability and carries on giving quota to national fleets regardless of whether or not the Norwegians are fishing in their waters. 

The agreement might deliver a balanced outcome between the EU and Norway but it is anything but balanced in terms of what it offers the UK. From the UK perspective, the Northern Agreement with Norway is a mechanism to secure Norwegian Cod for the French or Germans and pay for it with British and largely Scottish Mackerel.

Without, at this point examining in detail the different types of fish the various fleet have been landing, the agreement is roughly neutral for Norway, highly advantageous for the EU27 but correspondingly disadvantageous for the UK. The following article in this series, The Northern Agreements: what’s the point?, will examine whether it is in the UK’s interest to come to a new and different agreement with Norway once it has exited the CFP to succeed the current one and, if so, on what terms. 


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