The closing of the Norwegian commons Public Deposited

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  • Norway has for years managed its coastal fisheries through a regime that for all practical purposes has acted as open access, that is, open for bona fide fishers. The trawling sector was closed already in the 1930s, and the large offshore fleet was regulated through limited entry licensing from the early 1970s, while the coastal fishers were free to enter up to 1990. At that time the serious crisis in the cod sector implied a strict vessel quota system, a system that has been extended after the crisis passed away and that is now gradually being expanded to all other important fisheries as well. Add to this that through central allocation keys the distribution of rights and quotas has been fixed for longer periods (at present up to 2007). From nearly open access Norwegian fisheries have in twelve years moved to a situation where more than 90% of the resources are allocated and defined as accessible only for a limited number of quota and right holders. While the process has been heavily disputed within the fishermen’s organisations, the Norwegian Fishermen’s Association has all along played its part and accepted the preferred solutions. The same seems to be the case for politicians and the surrounding society, although more critical voices are also heard, not least among the representatives of the small-scale operators and the part-timers. The main question is, however, to identify the driving forces behind this process. Is it an inevitable outcome of technical rationalisation, whereby each vessel has become technically more efficient over time, facing a limited resource (fixed TACs)? Or is it a result of a “bureaucratic plot” as claimed by some researchers, where the fisheries administrators have been intent on closing the fisheries for years and are now using the crisis to implement an administrative plan? Or could it be that the fishers themselves, through various co-management institutions like the Regulatory Council, have fronted the closing process in order to improve their own economic position? Whatever the explanation, there seems to be no way back and the article ends up discussing possible future scenarios.
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  • Hersoug, Bjørn. 2002. The closing of the Norwegian commons. In: Proceedings of the Eleventh Biennial Conference of the International Institute of Fisheries Economics and Trade, August 19-22, 2002, Wellington, New Zealand: Fisheries in the Global Economy. Compiled by Ann L. Shriver. International Institute of Fisheries Economics & Trade, Corvallis, Oregon, USA, 2002. CD ROM.
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