Norway’s block on EU fishing vessels keeps Danish boats in port

A small fishing boat is on its way to a safe harbor in Hanstholm, Jutland, Denmark, 21 January 2021, after Storm Christoph entered Jutland's west coast. [EPA-EFE/Henning Bagger]

Norway is withholding permits for British and most EU fishing vessels to catch fish in its North Sea waters while post-Brexit talks between Norway, the EU and Britain are ongoing, leaving many Danish fishing vessels moored idly in ports.

Non-EU member Norway warned in December it could deny EU fishing vessels access to its waters, after annual talks between Norway and the EU on fishing quotas were held up by protracted Brexit negotiations between London and Brussels.

Under its Brexit trade deal Britain agreed a 5-1/2 year period to phase in new rules on what EU boats can catch in British waters. However, new catch certificates, health checks and customs declarations have hampered trade for British fishermen.

Norway wants a trilateral deal with Britain and the EU on a specific issue – the management of North Sea fish that swim between waters belonging to the EU, Norway and Britain – before making separate deals with the EU and Britain on quotas.

Those trilateral talks began last week, but are being dragged out because consultations are via video conferencing, Norway’s Fishing Ministry said in an emailed statement to Reuters.

“It is vital for the Danish fishing industry to gain access (to Norwegian waters),” Svend-Erik Andersen, president of industry organisation Danish Fishermen, told Reuters.

More than three quarters of the Danish fishing vessels that normally catch cod, pollock, hake and monkfish in Norwegian waters, are moored in Danish harbours, he said.

Danish, German, Swedish and French boats catch fish in the Norwegian part of the North Sea, home to the largest fishing stocks in the region.

A separate and limited agreement between the EU and Norway was made on 7 January, allowing a few EU and Norwegian vessels to fish in parts of the North Sea throughout January.

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