Sustainable sourcing: does it always mean choosing local?

Chefs are becoming increasingly serious about sourcing from sustainable seas, which means looking outside of the North Sea for cod and haddock. The Norwegians believe that clean waters, healthy stocks, and careful processing methods produce superior quality fish, and they go to great lengths to protect their seas, putting Norwegian cod and haddock at the forefront of sustainable fishing worldwide.

After oil and gas, fishing is the next biggest part of Norway’s economy, so the Norwegians treat fishing incredibly seriously. But, it goes far deeper than money. Fishing is a way of life and the Norwegians are committed to looking after the oceans for generations to come, as generations before them have done. It’s not just managing stocks but maintaining the unspoiled and pristine seas – which they value as a huge factor in the high quality and taste of their prized seafood. To do this the Norwegians have an innovative system of traceability, regulation, inspection, and quotas, regulated by the Ministry of Trade, Industry and Fisheries, The Directorate of Fisheries and the Joint Norwegian-Russian Fisheries Commission, Regional Fisheries Management Organisations. As such, Norway’s sustainability model is renowned worldwide, endorsed by the Marine Stewardship Council and the United Nations.

Pioneering quotas and saying no to discards.
Over the years, the Norwegian seafood industry has evolved from free fishing to strict regulations. Norway introduced a strict discard ban in 1987; not only is dumping unwanted stock back into the sea a waste of food, it leads to unrecorded catches and inaccurate statistics, disrupting the basis of scientific assessment. Norway also pioneered the quota system; every quota is based on research by the International Council for the Exploration of the Sea (ICES) and is agreed following annual international negotiations. As quotas are vital to seafood industry sustainability, fisherman who exceed their quota are penalised and receive only 20% of the value of the over-quota fish. However, with Norway’s zero-waste policy, all fish that is landed is sold in the market.

Spearheading traceability and issuing catch certificates.
Norway operates a rigorous traceability scheme and was the first country to introduce one. All seafood must be certified; a requirement that from catch to caterer, fish can be tracked and managed through the supply chain. By law, all first-hand fish trade with wild fish caught are under the Raw Fish Act. A catch certificate is issued, displaying where the fish is caught and clarifying that it legally complies with all current regulations and quotas.

Protecting the ocean floor.
Norway’s approach to protecting its naturally rich fish stocks is based on extensive research. A good example is the MAREANO programme, which has been mapping and photographing the ocean floor since 2006. In this time, more than 170,000km2 of the seabed has been surveyed. As one of the most advanced ocean-floor research programmes on earth, it provides a window to a world rarely seen by humans and produces the essential data required to protect it.

Certified sustainable – and then some.
MSC certificates for North Sea cod fisheries have recently been suspended after stocks dropped below the safe biological level. This suspension affects all MSC certified fisheries targeting the North Sea cod stock. It does not apply to the Barents Sea and North East Arctic, where stocks are thriving and plentiful, all thanks to years of rigorous scientific management. As a result, Norway has one of the highest proportions of MSC-certified fisheries and all Norwegian cod and haddock is certified sustainable.

Further Information
Species, nutrition, legislation, and sustainability at

The Institute of Marine Research is vital to Norway’s monitoring process. It provides expert advice on the ecosystems of our cod fishing locations.

The International Council for the Exploration of the Sea specialises in oceanography, the marine environment, and the marine ecosystem. It is the primary source of scientific advice for governments and international regulatory bodies.



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