Global Fishing Index


Norway has a developed fisheries governance system and has made some progress towards restoring fish stocks to sustainable levels. Additional work is needed to rebuild overfished stocks and expand management coverage across all fisheries.

Norway is the tenth largest producer of wild-caught fisheries globally,1 and fisheries are a significant, both in terms of contributing to the national economy and supporting jobs in coastal communities.2,3 Norway has signalled its commitment to sustainable ocean management by being one of fourteen countries represented on the High-Level Panel for a Sustainable Ocean Economy.4

Norway has a developed system of fisheries governance and has made some progress to achieve sustainability in key fisheries. It is one of only ten countries in the Index to achieve a ‘C’ grade. The majority of fisheries catch taken in Norway’s national waters comes from assessed stocks, with either official assessments or sufficient publicly available data to estimate stock abundance. However, nine of Norway’s 36 assessed stocks are considered to be overfished. Norway must work to rebuild these overfished stocks and expand management across all fisheries to further advance towards SDG target 14.4.


To improve the sustainability of its fisheries, Norway should:

Review the management measures in place for overfished stocks and take corrective action, where needed.
Expand the use of science-based management across all fisheries, starting with information collection and analysis in data poor stocks.
Eliminate all harmful subsidies and redirect investment into fisheries management.
Expand requirements for fishing licences and vessel registration across all sectors, particularly in small-scale fisheries.

Progress towards SDG target 14.4

While Norway is the fourth-highest performing country in terms of progress towards SDG target 14.4 globally, it is still far from achieving sustainability in all fisheries in its waters.

A very high proportion of Norway’s catch is assessed – 80 per cent – with 27 of the 36 assessed stocks (75 per cent) evaluated using recent official stocks assessments. This high score in data availability is due, in part, by the dominance of a few large stocks of Atlantic herring (Clupea harengus) and Atlantic cod (Gadus morhua) in Norway’s total catch. Together these stocks account for 41 per cent of the total catch in Norway’s national waters.

Of the 36 fish stocks assessed for Norway, 27 stocks (75 per cent) are at or above 40 per cent of their unfished levels of abundance and considered to be sustainable. Together, these stocks account for an estimated 71 per cent of Norway’s catch since 1990. Alternatively, 10 per cent of the total catch comes from stocks that are overfished.

Fisheries governance

Norway performs in the top five per cent of countries globally for its fisheries governance – it is also placed in the top three countries in Europe and North America. Norway has a developed fisheries governance system that, where implemented, promotes sustainable fishing; however, clear gaps remain regarding the provision of harmful subsidies and a lack of extensive licencing and vessel registration requirements.

Norway has a solid fisheries policy foundation with clearly stated environmental, economic and livelihood objectives. Norway also has a strong commitment to international standards for fisheries management, having ratified all key conventions. Norway stands out as a global leader for the protection of worker rights and safety in fisheries; it is one of only six countries in the Index to have ratified both the 2007 ILO Work in Fishing Convention (No. 188) and 2012 IMO Cape Town Agreement.

However, Norway continues to provide many types of potentially harmful subsidies that increase the capacity of fishing fleets and reduce the cost of fishing, such as reduced fuel prices or tax exemptions for fisheries. Close to two-thirds of Norway’s fisheries subsidy budget – worth an estimated US$478 million in 2018 – are provided to these types of harmful programs.

There is evidence that Norway has financial and professional capacity to manage its fisheries resources. For example, it collects high-quality fisheries information, such as catch, fishing effort and stock health data, for key fisheries such as Atlantic cod (Gadus morhua). It also uses science-based catch and/or effort limits to regulate fishing pressure in most fisheries. Critically, management decisions in key fisheries are made using harvest control rules – pre-determined rules that guide management action, based on the state of fisheries resources.

Despite these strengths, Norway underperforms compared to its regional neighbours in terms of controlling access to its fisheries resources. Despite using spatial restrictions to control fishing access, Norway fishing licence and vessel registration system does not extend to the small-scale sector. Furthermore, foreign fishing is permitted in Norway’s waters through bilateral and/or multilateral agreements, with a very high level of fishing by foreign-flagged vessels – the equivalent of nearly 7.5 years of fishing – detected in Norway’s waters in 2018. This included vessels operating under known ‘flags of convenience’ (FOCs), which are often used to mask true vessel ownership and reduce accountability.5

While foreign fishing – particularly under FOCs – can present sustainability challenges, Norway’s strong compliance management system helps ensure fishing remains sustainable. This system includes on-water and in-port fisheries inspections, strict graduated sanctions for fisheries violations and a National Plan of Action to prevent, deter and eliminate illegal, unreported and unregulated (IUU) fishing. Furthermore, the high perceived integrity of Norway’s enforcement of laws, rules and regulations may further strengthen the effectiveness of its fisheries compliance management system.6

Finally, stakeholders are provided opportunities to participate in fisheries management in Norway through the decentralisation of management responsibilities to lower levels of authority – for example, through the use of community-based or customary management arrangements. Stakeholder capacity to take advantage of these opportunities is also supported by the presence of fisher representation groups (such as cooperatives or associations) and transparency in fisheries decision-making processes.

Key metrics

Metric Value
Progress score 60.3 out of 100
Total reconstructed catch in 2018 2.4 million tonnes
Total reconstructed catch (1990 to 2018) 90.6 million tonnes
Sustainable stocks 75%
Overfished stocks 25%
Catch from sustainable stocks (1990 to 2018) 70%
Catch from overfished stocks (1990 to 2018) 10%
Catch from unassessed stocks (1990 to 2018) 20%
Governance capacity High: Level 8 of 12

Methods and data sources

We consider Bouvet Island and Svalbard and Jan Mayen Islands as part of Norway for the Global Fishing Index assessment. Norway is also considered part of the European and North American region for comparative purposes. Refer to the Technical Methods for a detailed explanation of the methods used by the Minderoo Foundation to produce the 2021 Global Fishing Index. The Technical Methods should be read in conjunction with the Global Fishing Index Key Insights report, Governance Conceptual Framework and Indicator Codebook.

Norway’s Progress score was informed by 36 assessed fish stocks. Twenty-seven stocks had recent published official stock assessments, all from national authorities. The remaining nine stocks were assessed using publicly available data and established data limited methods (CMSY++ or the Bayesian Schaefer Model).78

Norway’s Governance assessment was informed by two questionnaire respondents, three interviews with local fisheries experts and the publicly available literature. Consulted references are listed in the bibliography below. Our governance assessment measures country-level fisheries governance, with eight indicators referring specifically to a country’s most valuable fishery, as identified by respondents. The most valuable fishery identified for Norway was Atlantic cod, Gadus morhua.

Governance bibliography

The following sources informed Norway’s governance assessment:

Directorate of Fisheries (2015). Fisheries Monitoring Centre (FMC Norway). [22 October 2019]

Directorate of Fisheries (2021). Fisheries. [28 January 2020]

Eurostat (n.d.). The collection and compilation of fish catch and landing statistics in member countries of the european economic area, Eurostat, pp. 1-54. [22 October 2019]

Fiskeridirektoratet (2014). How to become a fisherman? [22 October 2019]

Fiskeridirektoratet (2015). Control and enforcement. [22 October 2019]

Fiskeridirektoratet (2015). Reaksjonar ved regelbrot. [22 October 2019]

Fiskeridirektoratet (2018). Fiskeridirektoratet Arsrapport 2018 (Fisheries Directorate Anuual Report 2018), Fiskeridirektoratet, pp. 1-102. [22 October 2019]

Fiskeridirektoratet (2018). Economic and biological figures from Norwegian fisheries 2018, Fiskeridirektoratet, Norway, pp. 1-39. [22 October 2019]

Fiskeridirektoratet (2018). Totale fiskerier, bunnfiskerier og pelagiske fiskerier, Fiskeridirektoratet, pp. 1-10. [22 October 2019]

Fiskeridirektoratet (2019). Case papers, input and minutes from the regulatory meetings. [22 October 2019]

Fiskeridirektoratet (2019). Plandokument Virksomhetsplan 2019 (Planning document activity plan), Fiskeridirektoratet, pp. 1-11. [22 October 2019]

Fiskeridirektoratet (2019). Nasjonal strategisk risikovurdering for 2019 (National strategic risk assessment), Fiskeridirektoratet, pp. 1-33. [22 October 2019]

Fiskeridirektoratet (2019). Norwegian fishing vessels, fishermen and licenses, Fiskeridirektoratet, Postboks 185 Sentrum, 5804 Bergen, pp. 1-86. [22 October 2019]

Fiskeridirektoratet (2019). Economic and biological figures from Norwegian fisheries 2018, Fiskeridirektoratet, Postboks 185 Sentrum, 5804 Bergen, pp. 1-39. [22 October 2019]

Fiskeridirektoratet (2019). Ship Registry. [28 January 2020]

Gullestad, P., Aglen, A., Bjordal, Å., Blom, G., Johansen, S., Krog, J., Misund, O.A. and Røttingen, I. (2014). Changing attitudes 1970–2012: evolution of the Norwegian management framework to prevent overfishing and to secure long-term sustainability, ICES Journal of Marine Science 71, (2), pp. 173-182, [22 October 2019]

International Council for the Exploration of the Sea (2016). Advice on fishing opportunities, catch and effort (Cod in the Northeast Arctic), ICES Advice on fishing opportunities, catch, and effort Arctic Ocean, Barents Sea , Faroes , Greenland Sea, pp. 1-10. [22 October 2019]

I. U. U. Fishing Index (2019). Norway. [22 October 2019]

Jacques, V. and Ann Kristin, W. (2019). Agreed Record of Fisheries Consultations between Norway and the European Union for 2019, Pelagic Advisory Council, pp. 1-28. [22 October 2019]

Ministry of Fisheries Coastal Affairs (2007). Norwegian Fisheries Management Organizational Chart, Ministry of Fisheries and Coastal, P.O. Box 8118 Dep. NO-0032 Oslo, pp. 1-20. [22 October 2019]

Norwegian Maritime Authority (2016). Why choose voluntary registration? [22 October 2019]

Norwegian Maritime Authority (2021). What distinguishes NIS from NOR? [22 October 2019]

Norwegian Maritime Authority (2021). Ship search. [22 October 2019]

Norwegian Ministrie of Trade Industry Fisheries (2019). Blue Opportunities. The Norwegian Government's updated ocean strategy, Norwegian Government Security and Service Organisation, pp. 1-50. [22 October 2019]

Norwegian Ministry of Fisheries and Coastal Affairs (2009). Norwegian Marine Resources Act, Norwegian Ministry of Fisheries and Coastal Affairs, pp. 1-11. [22 October 2019] (2018). Fisheries and trade in seafood. [22 October 2019]

Statistics Norway (2019). Fisheries Statistics Norway. [17 June 2020]

Statistics Norway (2018). 07811: Fishermen, by fishing as source of livehood (C) 1945 – 2018. [22 October 2019]

Universitetet i Oslo (2008). Act relating to the management of wild living marine resources, Universitetet i Oslo, pp. 1-17. [22 October 2019]


1Based on estimated reconstructed catch within each country’s national waters between 2014 – 2018. Pauly, D., Zeller, D. and Palomares, M.L.D. (2021). Sea Around Us Concepts, Design and Data. [30 June 2021]
2Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (2013). Fishery and Aquaculture Country Profiles. The Kingdom of Norway. [29 September 2020]
3As above
4World Resources Institute (2021). High level panel for a sustainable ocean economy. [15 January 2021]
5International Transport Workers’ Federation (2021). List of countries deemed to be Flags of Convenience. [21 January 2021]
6Becker, G.S. (2000). Crime and Punishment: an Economic Approach, in: Fielding, N.G., Clarke, A., Witt, R. (Eds.). The Economic Dimensions of Crime, Palgrave Macmillan UK, London, pp. 13-68. [9 November 2021]
7Froese, R., Demirel, N., Coro, G., Kleisner, K.M. and Winker, H. (2017). Estimating Fisheries Reference Points from Catch and Resilience, Fish and Fisheries 18, (3), pp. 506-526, [03 June 2021]
8Froese, R., Winker, H., Coro, G., Palomares, M.L.D., Tsikliras, A.C., Dimarchopoulou, D., Touloumis, K., Demirel, N., Vianna, G.M.S., Scarcella, G., Schijns, R., Liang, C. and Pauly, D. (in review). Catch Time Series As the Basis For Fish Stock Assessments: The CMSY++ Method, Fish and Fisheries, [3 March 2021]