A multinational fishery currently operates in the NwS using different fishing gears and targeting several species. The annual catch in the ecoregion varies between 700 000 tonnes to almost 1 million tonnes (2012) from the stocks of NSS herring, mackerel, blue whiting, NEA saithe Pollachius virens, redfish Sebastes sp., and silver smelt Argentina silus.
The fishing pressure on the largest commercially exploited fish stocks (NSS herring, blue whiting, and mackerel) have varied since the 1980s, for a number of reasons (Figure 6). They are now harvested at fishing mortalities close to those in the management plans and have full reproductive capacity. While the golden redfish S. norvegicus stock is at a historical low point, the beaked redfish S. mentella stock has recovered from a low SSB and fishing quotas (until 2017) are set at 30 000 tonnes annually. The small coastal cod Gadus morhua stock is overfished. The fisheries management plan sets the upper limits for landings in the region. Other stocks are commercially harvested (Greenland halibut Reinhardtius hippoglossoides, halibut Hippoglossus hippoglossus, deep-water shrimps Pandalus borealis, the copepod Calanus finmarchicus, and minke whale Balaenoptera acutorostrata).
Regulations established in 2011 have restricted the use of bottom trawls in areas with coral reefs and at depths exceding 1 000 m. Some bycatch of seabirds and marine mammals is known to occur, but numbers have not been quantified. Only minke whales are exploited in the NwS.
A Norwegian hunt for minke whales is conducted in the Norwegian Sea, Barents Sea, North Sea, and the Jan Mayen area. Quotas are set in accordance with IWC's revised management procedure and the total annual catch has ranged between 450 and 750 animals in all waters. Survey population estimates are provided every six years and have shown the population to be stable over the past five survey cycles.
A small trial commercial fishery (< 1000 tonnes annually) for Calanus finmarchicus has been developed along the Norwegian coast for more than a decade. Norway is currently considering to upscale this fishery for offshore parts of the NwS.
Figure 6: Time-series of average of relative fishing mortality (F to FMSY ratio) for Northeast Atlantic mackerel (Mac-nea), Norwegian spring-spawning herring (Her-noss), and blue whiting (WHB-comb), based on ICES 2016 assessments.