by Thomas Jensen
  • Capital: Oslo
  • Population: 5.5 million (2023, Statistics Norway)
  • GDP: €551 billion (2022, Eurostat)
  • GDP/capita: €101 150 (2022, 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 2020 Norway was the 10th largest capture fishery and the 8th largest aquaculture producer in the world.

The main elements of Norwegian fisheries management are access and quota regulations, coupled with capacity adjustment schemes. In 2022, the total catch amounted to almost 2.6 million tonnes valued at €2.8 billion. The most important fisheries today are those for cod (coastal and high seas), herring, 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 51% of the total value. Catches of pelagic fish were the largest, reaching 1 314 740 tonnes (51% of the total catch volumes). Norway pout and blue whiting are other important species and are mostly used as raw materials for fish oil and fishmeal production. Herring and mackerel are used for both consumption and processing into oil and meal. In 2022, there were 9,591 fishermen employed full-time, and 1,226 part time. While the number of fishermen employed full time remained relatively stable during the past decade (since 2013), the number of part– time fishermen has shown a 40% decrease during the same period. For several decades there has been a general downward trend in the number of fishing vessels, and in 2022 their total number amounted to 5 611 (down by 8% during the decade). Over 90% of the country’s fishing fleet are vessels below 15 meters. In 2022 the number of the vessels above 28 meters amounted to 260, which is only 4.6% 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, the Faroe Islands, Greenland, Iceland, the EU, and Russia. In Norway, first sales of fishery products are managed through the systems of five 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. The possibility of sea cucumber farming is also being considered, but the development of the project is at a very early stage.

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 2022, the total sale of farmed fish and molluscs for human consumption reached 1 648 thousand tonnes amounting to over 10.5 billion euros.

In 2022, the production of salmon and trout was 99% of the country’s total fish and seafood production both in terms of volume and value, reaching nearly 1 637 thousand tonnes, of which 1 552 thousand were salmon and 84,9 thousand were trout. In addition, fish farmers produced 8 310 tonnes of other fish (mainly Atlantic cod and halibut, and Arctic charr), 2 647 tonnes of shellfish (mainly Blue mussel). Algae production for both feed and human consumption reached 221 tonne (sugar kelp and winh kelp). The long-term growth and development of the sector depend on an environmentally sustainable aquaculture industry, minimizing risks to the marine environment and biological diversity.

In 2022, the number of sites in seawater was 989 for salmon and trout production, and 138 for molluscs, crustaceans, and echinoderms. The latter concerns ranching of sea urchins – a new venture formed in 2020. The number of land-based sites in 2022 was 29 for freshwater and 29 for salt water fish.


In 2022, 1 726 licences were issued for the production of fish, shellfish, and algae – of them, 1 249 (72%) were for salmon and trout production. For the production of juveniles, 188 licenses were issued for salmon and trout hatcheries, and 89 for other fish. The total number of full- and part-time employees in the aquaculture sector, including juvenile production, was 10 165 (or 7 481 in full-time equivalent): over 90% of them were involved in salmon and trout farming, 8% in farming other fish, and about one per cent was dealing with molluscs and algae. Over 80% of the employees are men (6 096 FTE).


NOR Proc

In 2022, Norway exported 2.85 million tonnes of fisheries and aquaculture products for the total value of €14.8 billion. The share of farmed species (mainly salmon and trout) represented about 45% of the volume, and over 70% of the total value of exports. The EU is the largest market for fish and seafood from Norway and absorbs some 65% of total export volumes, with Sweden, Poland, and Denmark as the main destinations. Outside of the EU, USA is the largest destination (€1.16 billion in 2022, a 70% increase compared to 2020), followed by China (€718 million in 2022, over 85% increase compared to 2020). Norway is also one of the top two markets for fish and seafood from the EU; about 70% of the country’s seafood 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 2022 Norway imported 425 089 tonnes of fishmeal and fish oil, and the latter represented 48% of this volume. Total imports in 2022 reached over 665 633 tonnes valued at about 1.7 billion euros.


Consumption of fish and seafood products averaged 18.96 kg per capita in 2022 (data from the Norwegian Seafood Council) – almost 11% decrease compared to 2003 levels, and growing prices are the major reason for it. Sales of expensive seafood went down, while the sales of more affordable species went up. Historically, 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.


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