Northern Fishermen in Norway Want to Go It Alone

Chairman Roger Hansen of the Norwegian Fishermen’s Association , Division North, which organizes fishermen in Troms and Finnmark. (Photo: NFA) Fishing boats at fish-loading quay in Honningsvåg, Norway. (Photo: Trine Jonassen, High North News)

The Norwegian Fishermen’s Association , Division North (NFA North) has decided to exit from the main organization. “We need a change of attitude within the organization in relation to thinking about the small, traditional coastal fishing fleet”, says Chairman of NFA North Roger Hansen to High North News.

Last week, the Norwegian Fishermen’s Association, Division North (NFA North) decided to exit from the Norwegian Fishermen’s Association. The proposal to leave was approved with only one vote against.

Chairman of NFA North Roger Hansen says to High North News that members and local chapters are dissatisfied with the fact that issues they raise are not sufficiently followed up on a national level within the NFA.

There is a feeling that issues raised by coastal fishermen in the North are not sufficiently processed.  
Roger Hansen, Chairman of NFA North.

What kind of issues are we talking about?

“It has to do with for instance challenges for the traditional and smaller coastal fleet whose members fish near the coastline.”

According to Hansen, one of the problems is that larger and modern coastal vessels have built up so that they can fish efficiently out in the open seas and also fish in areas near the coast, areas with fish on which the traditional coast-based fleet depends.

“When the smaller fleet based on this loses large parts of its operational foundations, and this is not understood on key levels in our own organization, and when they, as far as we understand, do not want to fully investigate this properly, then that will have consequences.

The distribution of resources is not longer fixed, even though on paper it may appear so.  
Roger Hansen, Chairman of NFA North

Norwegian Fishermen’s Association

  • Professional and industrial organization for Norwegian professional fishermen
  • Organizes individual fishermen, employed fishermen and fishing boat owners
  • Headquarters in Trondheim, Norway
  • Has nine divisions distributed along the Norwegian coast
  • NFA North organizes fishermen in Troms and Finnmark County and has some 30 local chapters.

“The fact that the fishing vessel owners’ union [Fiskebåt, journ.note] competes with other groups inside the organization about the same members also represents a challenge. Earlier, the fishing vessel owners’ union organized the ocean-going fleet whereas local chapters organized the coast-based fleet. When this is challenged, it also challenges the very model of the NFA.”

Change of attitude

Do you mean that the NFA does not listen to you on these issues?

“The NFA does not sufficiently follow up on our warnings in order to ensure we manage to preserve the smallest fleet. That represents a signal from the top level of the NFA to NFA North that the bigger constituents of the organization prevail within it.”

Why did the decision to exit the organization come now?

“This has built up over time and grown increasingly polarized. Now, individual members as well as local chapters took the opportunity of the annual meeting to send a powerful signal to the Board that enough is enough, and that they have to do something.”

What do you think the NFA should do differently?

“We need a change of attitude within the organization in relation to the smaller and traditional coast-based fleet, which preserves diversity. When there is a feeling of not being followed properly up, reactions like this ensue. It is not like we do not understand the democratic principles of an organization, however, we expect the input and proposals we provide to be processed and investigated in a manner sufficient for us to see a genuine reason for why various decisions are made.”

Bargaining position

According to the NFA bylaws, a division wanting to leave the organization has to fulfill its period in office between its national conventions, according to Hansen. He points out that the organization is currently half-way between two such conventions and that the NFA North interprets this to mean it has to remain within the organization until the national convention in 2023.

What does this decision mean for you in the future?

“With the decision of our annual meeting, we believe we are in a so-called bargaining position. We will use it well with regard to perhaps being able to change through the NFA system to some extent how the NFA shapes its policies. The NFA North will have annual meetings every year until 2023, but a decision does not stand longer than until the next annual meeting.”

So this may change?

“It can, because we place ourselves in a bargaining situation. However, it will not change if the current regime of the NFA were to last.”


This article was originally published in Norwegian and has been translated by HNN's Elisabeth Bergquist.