Despite several rounds of negotiations, there are no coastal state agreements in place for 2014 neither for blue whiting nor for Norwegian spring spawning herring. Norway has been ready to conclude both agreements since last autumn.
The negotiations have, however, been repeatedly postponed by the EU who has not been willing to finalize the discussions on the management of these stocks before the conclusion of a mackerel agreement. After the last postponement, required during the the negotiation round 4-6 March, Norway has twice proposed that the parties resume the blue whiting and herring negotiations. Russia, Iceland and the Faroe Islands have replied positively to the Norwegian proposal.
The agreements on blue whiting and Norwegian spring spawning herring both include bilateral agreements on zonal access. Whereas the blue whiting agreement implies zonal access for Norway to EU and Faroese waters, the herring agreement opens up for zonal access for all the other parties to Norwegian waters. Hence, the benefit of zonal access provides an obvious link between the two agreements. To provide for equal opportunities and advantages, the two agreements have for a number of years been signed at the same time.
The blue whiting fisheries take place mainly early in the year, and more than half of the Norwegian quota has already been caught. It is therefore vital that an agreement for 2014 is concluded well before the fishing season is over. To provide for at least a minimum agreement Norway has now suggested that the parties conclude a deal by mail within the coming days. Such an arrangement would be accompanied by an agreement on Norwegian spring spawning herring, thus opening up Norwegian waters for the other parties. If the parties should not agree on a blue whiting arrangement very soon, the zonal access to Norwegian waters for herring would have to be adjusted accordingly.