The Norwegian Ministry of Trade, Industry and Fisheries today opened a hearing regarding the opportunity for landing fish at Svalbard. – Svalbard could possibly have its own peak season, says President of SINTEF Nord, Jørn Eldby.
Increasing interest in landing fish at Svalbard and the need to establish the regulations required to maintain satisfactory resource control provide the backdrop for this proposal.
- The Ministry of Trade, Industry and Fisheries cannot see any reason to treat landings at Svalbard any different from those on the mainland, says the Hearing Letter from the Ministry. The deadline for remarks is 23 March, 2018.
First for own supply
The SINTEF President says the point of allowing landing fish at Svalbard is, initially, about making the island self-supplied with fish for its own market. As per today, export is not an issue.
- The point is to make Svalbard self-supplied with fish. And in this, we will at SINTEF develop a test lab for further development and a more evenly distributed supply from the fishermen. Today, supplies are quite unevenly distributed, Eldby says.
He also says that new research shows that schools of cod slowly make their way northwards after spawning in Lofoten during the winter. He firmly believes that coast-based fishing based in Longyearbyen will have a future.
- The cod schools arrive in Lofoten in January. Following the Lofoten fisheries, they move north and head for Svalbard. We do not know the exact stock amounts yet, however, we do know that it eats a lot of shellfish, and this makes it high-quality fish, Eldby says.
Its own peak season
Scientists at SINTEF hope to find out whether it is possible to fish for cod at Svalbard in a period of the year during which there is not much cod along the coast, in a time when it is scarce.
- Perhaps one can continue cod fishing from May and into the autumn season for as long as the weather permits. Not with large vessels, but rather balanced catching, says the SINTEF President.
If successful, there may be a foundation for supplying fish to other parts of the world too, not just the Svalbard market.
- If production is too high, we cannot just throw the fish away, says Eldby.
A fishy hotel
There is also hope of establishing a so-called ‘cod hotel’ at Svalbard, facilities to which live cod may be brought and stored in sub-sea net cages for a short period of time.
- This is how they do it in Myre, Norway. The cod can live and be fed for up to three months in those cages without the facilities becoming subject to the Aquaculture Act, Eldby says.
He believes it is important for Svalbard to think professionally if it wants to grow its own fish industry.
- This is a long-term idea that with no doubt represents a sustainable solution for industry in Svalbard now that coalmining activities are shut down, not to mention that it may generate a large number of jobs, the SINTEF President says.
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