Fishermen from the United Kingdom and European Union are at risk of being banned from Norwegian waters if a trilateral fisheries agreement between the three parties is not in force before the New Year.

“If we do not get a deal by Jan. 1, we will not open Norway’s economic fishing zones to vessels from the EU and Britain,” Odd Emil Ingebrigtsen, the Norwegian Minister of Fisheries told parliament on Friday.

"Nor can we expect Norwegian vessels to gain access to their zones until there are agreements."

Negotiations with the EU and the UK on fisheries agreements for 2021 are "severely delayed" because London and Brussels have not yet reached a deal governing their relations after Britain exits the bloc, including over fisheries, said the minister.

“It is not a given that these talks can be concluded before the new year,” he said.

Audun Marak, CEO of Fiskebaat, the organization representing the Norwegian fleet, told IntraFish sister publication Fiskeribladet it is manageable for Norwegian fishermen to not have access to the British zone and the EU zone in the New Year.

It could, however, impact those fishing for saithe, ling and tusk in January and February.

Audun Marak, CEO of Fiskebaat. Photo: Marius Beck Dahle

"In that case, we assume that this will be compensated for fish we exchange in the Norwegian zone for these vessels," he said.

There have been some inquiries about mackerel fishing opportunities in the new year, but Marak says his organization has asked members to plan for the possibility that no agreement will be reached.

He also believes that it will be too late to reach agreements with the EU and the British for fishing in the first months of next year.

"It is therefore important that we get transitional arrangements, or temporary arrangements, for fishing in each other's zones from New Year. As it is now, it is difficult to plan anything," he said.

Norway has had fisheries agreements with the EU for more than 40 years. The cooperation means, among other things, that Norwegian fishermen have been able to fish in EU waters, and vice versa.

Ingebrigtsen said Norway has contacted the EU to renegotiate the fisheries agreement entered into between the parties in 1980.

Setting own quotas

This year's negotiations on the common stocks in the North Sea have not yet begun.

Due to the Brexit negotiations, Norway has so far not succeeded in getting the EU to participate in trilateral negotiations with Norway and the United Kingdom.

Until the parties agree on total quotas, Norway plans to set national quotas in line with advice from the International Council for the Exploration of the Sea (ICES).

Through the Skagerrak agreement -- a bilateral agreement between Norway and the EU --Danish, Norwegian and Swedish vessels have mutual access from four nautical miles in the Skagerrak.

This zone access will also be affected if a fisheries agreement is not reached with the EU, the United Kingdom and Norway.

In September, Norway and Britain concluded a bilateral fisheries deal. But before any bilateral deals can kick in, Oslo wants a trilateral deal between Norway, the EU and Britain in place, and negotiations on this are not yet concluded.