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Monday 7 April 2014

A load of codswallop - a deafening silence as Norway manages to export 20% more cod than it caught!

Aplogies for using the most clichéd of clichés - but there's something fishy going on here - as Fishing News editor Cormac Burke comments, there seems to be a deafening silence from the likes of Norway, any of the environmental groups who hold Norway on an evergreen pedestal when it comes to fishing practice and sustainability and the very supermarkets who have been so keen to promote their accredited fish over and above our own and in particular cod from Scottish boats fishing the same sea area!

Editor Cormac Burke's Comment article on the story from last week's fishing industry trade paper for fishermen, Fishing News:

It’s all a cod…

Norwegian cod scam – but a deafening silence from Norway, UK retailers and green groups

The lead story in this week’s issue of Fishing News, regarding the revelation that it appears that Norway is exporting 20% more cod that it reportedly lands, is extremely interesting on several fronts.

The Norwegian TV programme credits say: "We follow two teenagers on the all-time cod fishing, an industry in large valleys: Some make money, others say cheating destroys the industry's reputation and economy. And some dare not speak for fear of being blacklisted."

Besides the obvious point that, should these allegations prove to be true, this will transpire to be more than embarrassing for those who hold the Norwegian cod fishery to be one of the most sustainable in the world, but it could/should also impact on the prices being offered at home for UK-caught cod.

Despite my breaking this story on IntraFish.com last week, there seems to be a deafening silence from: (a) Norway; (b) the major UK retailer chains who opt to promote and sell Norwegian cod rather than UK cod because they claim it is from a more sustainable fishery and; (c) green groups.

IntraFish.com contacted the Norwegian Seafood Council to ask if there had been any backlash or negative feedback from UK retailers as a result of the recent news but they denied this and said that the story had “barely caused a ripple”.

But at a time when every single move by the United Kingdom (UK) fishing industry seems to be under the media spotlight, why then have the national news media not picked up on this story and be demanding that UK food store chains carry out an investigation into the so called “super sustainability” claims by Norway regarding their cod fishery?

And, if any doubt or evidence of this fishery perhaps not being as squeaky clean as previously thought, then UK retailers should turn to UK-caught cod instead of imports and support UK fishermen.

Meanwhile however, the cynic in me can’t help feeling that if this exact same story had occurred in the UK fishing industry, then green groups everywhere would be jumping all over it – claiming that cod stocks are being fished to extinction by unscrupulous UK fishermen.

Is this because Norway is not in the European Union, or perhaps simply because they are not regarded by green groups as such easy targets as UK fishermen regularly are?
Cormac Burke

Here is Cormac's full story and editorial comment as broken in the last edition of Fishing News International:

Norway officials ‘cooking the books’ ? 

A Norwegian TV program claims cod export figures exceed reported landings by 20%   

A  new hard-hitting documentary program from Norway’s Broadcasting Corporation this  week titled “Cod Cheating” claimed that there is  “cheating and illegalities” in the Norwegian cod fisheries.  “There 's a bomb in the Norwegian fishery , a fishery which for many years has made the Scandinavian country the world's largest “clean and sustainable” fisheries,” the NRK  documentary stated. 

Claiming that far more cod is exported than reported legally landed, the ‘Cod Cheating’  program spoke with fish buyer Steinar Eliassen who said that Norway exports more than 15  to 20 percent  of cod above what official landings show.  “This was always happening to a small degree, but now it is much more than before,” he  said. 

Answering the accusation that there is talk of fraud in the region of several billion NOK , the  Norwegian Directorate of Fisheries have defended themselves by stating that export figures  cannot be directly compared to landing figures.

But higher up the administrative chain, Norway's fisheries minister Elisabeth Aspeaker  commented that something needs to be done urgently to get to the bottom of this problem. "It's very discouraging and very serious,” she said, adding “We cannot accepts this.” Ironically, this anomaly in the figures is not the fault of the fishermen, as they have been  logging their catches and landings correctly.

Several fishermen in the NRK documentary said that they felt cheated as it now transpires  that their weighing notes show considerably smaller figures than in reality Director Trygve Myrvang in Norwegian Raw Fish Organisation, the fishermen's own sales  organization, spoke of the anger of his membership at this revelation: “The good reputation of our industry is at risk unless we stop this illegalization of the cod  fishery. A kilo of fish shall be recorded as a kilo of fish.”   Not a good management policy

In an interview with Intrafish, renowned fisheries consultant Mogens Schou , ex advisor  to Denmark’s Minister of Fisheries and currently a partner in Aquamind - a consultancy  dedicated to align sound policy with growth in the fishing industry –said that there must  always be full accountability (no matter what country or fishery) all catches to count on  the quota and that they be documented and that this should be followed by removal of  prescriptive management.

“ Norway has consistently claimed that it has a management and control system of a quality  that practically forbid them to consider other options in the wake of technological, CFP and  market developments.   “This latest revelation would appear to point to the contrary,” he said. “Full accountability leads to better management, and nobody – not even Norway, should  exclude themselves from trials, development and innovation of the management system,”  he concluded.


However, prosecutors in Troms and Finnmark say that fishermen are not entirely innocent  and that there has been an increase in illegal logbook activities of up to 65% in 2012 - 2013. “For prosecutors, this is a well known problem. I have worked with this type of crime in  my entire career, chief public prosecutor Lars Faus told NRK. “In  many  cases  we  are  talking  about  deliberate  fraud,  where  both  fishermen  and  fish  buyer helps.

“When some fishermen come ashore as they are “in cahoots” with fish buyer and record  smaller quantities of fish on paper than they actually landed,” he added. The revelation that Norway’s squeaky clean image in its sustainable and strongly controlled  cod fishery could have serious ramifications for its export market – particularly in the UK  where several major retail chains insist on a regime of traceability and total sustainability of  the fisheries from which it sells its seafood products.