by Thomas Jensen
  • Capital: Oslo
  • Population: 5.4 million (2021, Statistics Norway)
  • GDP: €318 billion (2020, Eurostat)
  • GDP/capita: €59 130 (2020, Eurostat)

Overview of the Norwegian fisheries and aquaculture sector

Fisheries sector

NOR Fish

The Norwegian coast is 21 000 km long with a huge prospect for expanding fisheries and marine aquaculture in the country. Norway has 90 000 km² of sea within its jurisdiction, equalling approximately 1/3 of the total land area. Throughout its history the fishery has been a major industry in Norway. The country’s geographical characteristics, its long coastline, and climatic factors have made the country very well suited for this industry. According to the latest available FAO statistics, in 2018 Norway was the 9th largest capture fishery and the 7th largest aquaculture producer.

The main elements of Norwegian fisheries management are access and quota regulations, coupled with capacity adjustment schemes. In 2020, the total catch amounted to over 2.6 million tonnes valued at €2.1 billion. The most important fisheries today are those for cod (coastal and high seas), herring, capelin, and mackerel. Included in the cod fisheries are also haddock and saithe. The cod fisheries, producing fish for human consumption, equated to approximately one quarter of the total catch but was worth 49% of the total value. Herring catches were the largest at 1 441 846 tonnes (55% of the total catch volumes). Norway pout and blue whiting are other important species and are mostly used as raw materials in fish oil and fishmeal production. Herring and mackerel are used for both consumption and processing into oil and meal.

In 2020, there were 9 505 fishermen employed full-time, and 1 479 part time. The number of fishermen employed full time has reduced by one-third since 2000, while the number of part– time fishermen has shown a three-fold decrease during the same period. Since 2000, there has been a general downward trend in the number of vessels, and in 2020 their total number amounted to 5 857 (down by 60% during the decade). Over 90% of the country’s fishing fleet are vessels below 15 meters. In 2020 the number of the vessels above 28 meters amounted to 255, which is only 4.3% of the total fishing fleet. Approximately 90% of Norway’s catch volume comes from stocks in zones shared with other countries.  For the most important fish stocks, quota levels are set in cooperation with Russia, Iceland, the Faroe Islands, Greenland, and the EU. In Norway, first sales of fishery products are managed through the systems of six sales cooperatives. Norges Sildesalgslag (the Norwegian Fishermen’s Sales Organisation for Pelagic Fish) is Europe’s largest marketplace for first sales of pelagic species.



Norway has a long coastline of clean, fresh seawater that provides the best conditions possible for the operation of sustainable marine aquaculture activities. Norway is among the foremost in the world with respect to operations, technology, and research and development in the field of aquaculture. Aquaculture and sea ranching include a number of different activities where licenses are required. Production of salmon and rainbow trout is the most common activity, but cod and halibut, scallop, European lobster (sea ranching) and blue mussels are also produced. Norway is the world’s leading producer of Atlantic salmon and one of the largest seafood exporters in the world. The Norwegian aquaculture industry has developed to become an industry of major importance in the country. Commercial salmon farming started to develop in the 1970s, and at present, Atlantic salmon and trout are farmed up and down the coast. In 2020, the total sale of farmed fish in Norway reached 1 488 005 tonnes, and the slaughtered value was €6.5.

In 2020, production of salmon and trout was nearly 1 473 818 tonnes, of which 1 377 185 tonnes were salmon and 96 633 tonnes were trout. In addition, fish farmers produced 2 071 tonnes of shellfish, and 340 tonnes of algae (sugar kelp and winh kelp) The long-term growth and development of the sector depends on an environmentally sustainable aquaculture industry, minimizing risks to the marine environment and biological diversity. In 2020, 1 348 companies were issued licenses of which 1 221 were for salmon and trout. The total number of employees in the aquaculture sector is 9 975, of which 7 859 (79%) are male employees.


NOR Proc

In 2020, Norway exported 2.27 million tonnes of fisheries and aquaculture products for the total value of €10 billion. The share of farmed species (mainly salmon and trout) represented about 45% of the volume, and over 70% of the exports. The EU is the biggest market for fish and seafood from Norway, taking some 65% of total export volumes, with Denmark and Poland as the main destinations. Outside of the EU, USA is the largest destination (€625 million in 2020), followed by China (€370 million in 2020).

Norway is also one of the top two markets for fish and seafood from the EU; about 70% of all of its imports come from the EU. In recent years imports have grown significantly, partly because of the need to import fishmeal, fish oil and fish feed for the growing aquaculture industry. The main suppliers are the EU Member States and countries in South America. In 2020 Norway imported 350 291 tonnes of fishmeal and fish oil, and the latter represented 61% of this volume. Total imports in 2020 reached over 616 312 tonnes valued at about one billion euros. Fresh and chilled fish is the largest group of products imported for human consumption, and it share in 2020 amounted to 22% of the country’s total seafood import volume.


Consumption of fish and seafood products averaged 43.4 kg per capita in 2015. Fresh fish represents over half of all fish products bought for home consumption, while frozen fish is about one third. Sales of fresh fish have risen, particularly for fillets. The most popular species among Norwegian’ consumers are cod, salmon, shrimp, mackerel and European pollock.


The small-scale coastal fleet constitutes an important part of the overall fishing fleet, and the issue of overcapacity must also be tackled in this fleet segment.

A clear and transparent internationally recognized framework for private standards is lacking, as is a framework for certification procedures. There is a considerable need for more transparency among fisheries managers, private standard-setters, accredited certification agencies and wholesalers/retailers.

In the fish farming sector, the main problem is disease, which also has spill-over effects on wild stocks. Disease, including parasites such as sea lice, continues to be a major concern in the aquaculture industry.


Useful Links for Norway

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