NORWAY: fisheries subsidies in political parties' manifestos. Part I the Centre Party

On 14 September 2009 general elections took place in Norway. It is likely that the left wing coalition in power before the elections will stay and govern for the next four years.

I write "likely" on intent because one of the parties, the Socialist Left Party (Sosialistisk Venstreparti or SV), has pledged to voters that it would oppose the opening of the fishing grounds around the Lofoten and the Vesterålen islands for the exploitation of oil. At the time of writing this post negotiations among the concerned parties (Ap, SV and Sp) for the continuation of the coalition are still ongoing.

Fisheries, even though of very modest importance when compared to other economic sectors (e.g. energy) is still an importance constituency for most political parties in this country.

I went through the election programmes of some of the main parties looking for their pledges in fisheries and aquaculture. I must confess that it was a fishing (for subsidies!) expedition. Here is the catch for the Senterpartiet (Sp). This party, with farmers as its main constituency, participated in the previous government. These are some of the proposals
  • With the help of increased "economic means" stimulate the growth in harvests and catches of populations of seals and whales so that stocks of edible fish can grow and pay due consideration to Norwegian hunting traditions and hunting environment.

As my translation might not reflect all the nuances of the Norwegian origional I copy here the Norwegian text:

"Gjennom økte økonomiske virkemidler stimulere til økt høsting og fangst på bestandene av sel og hval, for igjen å kunne øke bestandene av matfisk og ta vare på norske fangsttradisjoner og fangstmiljø."

  • Uphold the "Råfiskloven" (whereby fishermen's sales organisations act as monopolies for the first sale of some fish species, see my post of 26 June 2009 "NORWAY: sales monopolies - supporting fishermen without subsidies?") and the "Deltakerloven" "Particpants law"),

    Ensure a decentralised landing structure through the allocation of budgetary resources to the "Transport Regulation" and to landing sites where there is no other alternative to land [or deliver].

On aquaculture the Senterpartiet is proposing to:

  • Establish a compensation mechanism for the cleaning and restoration of sites where serious (fish)illness has occurred. The cost of the compensation would have to be shared among, stakeholders, the state and insurance companies.

And concerning the strengthening of the competitiveness of the fishing industry:

  • Abolish the yearly fee for the fishing vessels' register and the yearly fee to be paid by aquaculture companies to local authorities.

    Oppose the introduction of a "control fee" for the fishery and aquaculture sectors.

The above proposals are noteworthy.

First of all the one related to encouraging, with the help of economic resources, the "harvest" of seals and whales. With the EU banning almost all trade in seal products it seems only logical that subsidies will be the only way to keep this "harvest" alive.

Furthermore, the Senterpartiet wants to maintain the monopoly of the sales organisations and the barriers to the entry in the profession as set-out in the "Participants' law (Deltakerloven). This is perfectly in line with the tradition of a party which has farmers as its main constituency.

The proposal to subsidise the construction of landing sites and the transport of fish is not a surprising one. Indeed, the previous government had launched a vast subsidy programme for fishing infrastructure (see my post of 21 March 2009 "NORWAY: hundreds of millions of krona for fisheries specific infrastructure").

Such policy explains Norway's defence at the WTO of subsidies to fisheries infrastructure. In Norway's written submission to the WTO fisheries subsidies negotiations (TN/RL/GEN/144 of 26/01/2007) we can read "OECD figures on transfers demonstrate that, on average, around 70 per cent of the transfers are used to finance either biological research and fisheries management systems or are measures financing infrastructure, such as harbours and fishing community installations. These are all measures that the majority of WTO Members agree should fall outside the scope of the new discipline."

So, it seems that according to Norway, subsidies to fishing infrastructure do not have negative impacts on fisheries resources.

Finally, it is more than clear that the Senterpartiet would have serious problems with the introduction of "cost-recovery" fisheries in the fisheries and aquaculture sector. The proposals to abolish fees and to oppose the introduction of a "control fee" are a clear illustration of this. This is in stark contrast with the positions of some key members of the WTO "Friends of Fish" group that consider that the non-recovery of fisheries management costs (including control) is a substantial subsidy.

Here are links with the proposals (in Norwegian) of the Senterpartiet for the fisheries sector:



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