Marine protected areas

This presentation shed some light over the present use of marine protected areas, MPAs, and other areabased conservations measures, OECMs) as tools in Norwegian management of fisheries and aquaculture.

Marine protected areas have in recent years become a hot topic. In this context it is an often not well understood fact that protection of marine areas has been an important tool for fisheries management, developed over a long period of time and utilized with success for a variety of purposes.

This presentation shed some light over the present use of area based tools, meaning OECMs and MPAs in Norwegian management of fisheries and aquaculture.

Marine fisheries

The Norwegian fisheries management regime is aiming at maximizing the long term sustainable yield of the living marine resources and at the same time protecting biodiversity and the functioning of ecosystems.

To achieve this goal a comprehensive set of management measures has been developed over the last several decades, including a complex variety ofOECMS, some of which may be regarded as MPAs by the Norwegian environmental authorities when reporting to international databases, such as in OSPAR. The reporting body in Norway applies the IUCN MPA criteria when reporting.. OECMs are defined by decision 14/8 of the Convention on Biological Diversity, CBD.

The management regime and its accompanying measures are dynamic and developing. Some of the area based measures may originally have been introduced for other reasons than protecting biodiversity, i.e. protection of small scale static gear fisheries from the competition of large scale trawlers. Still, such an area has in fact enjoyed, maybe for decades, a higher protection than its surroundings.

Area based management measures have so far been introduced to Norwegian fisheries management for the following reasons:

  • competition between gears and fleets
  • protection of spawning grounds
  • protection of juvenile fish – permanent and real time closures
  • rebuilding of depleted stocks (i.e. coastal cod, redfish, sandeel)
  • management measure for stationary stocks (i.e. lobster and seaweed)
  • protection of vulnerable bottom habitats (e.g.. coral reefs)

The areas are in each case designed according to the specific regulatory needs, at the same time seeking to minimize the regulatory burden to fishers. Generally speaking the following parameters would be addressed:

  • physical extension of area; coordinates, depth contours
  • should restrictions be permanent (long term) or temporal (short term)
  • should restrictions apply all year or to specific periods of the year
  • should restrictions be gear, fleet or fishery specific


The legal basis for fisheries management to protect marine areas is

The marine resources act

Pursuant to this Act the Ministry of Fisheries and Coastal Affairs has laid down detailed provisions in the regulations relating to sea-water fisheries.

The regulation is frequently updated, and attached to it are maps showing a substantial number of, but by far not all, marine areas protected by Norwegian fisheries legislation.

The regulation with annexed maps (in Norwegian)

Included are for example 18 coral reef MPAs.

Coastal cod

Since 2004 extensive management measures have gradually been introduced to rebuild the stock of Norwegian coastal cod. Coastal cod and arctic cod mix on the fishing grounds in fjords and coastal waters.

A core element of the management plan is to push the fleet fishing for cod out from the coast; the larger the vessel the further out it has to move. Detailed provisions excluding specific fleet groups and gears from areas inside fjords (fjord lines), the baseline, 4 or 6 nm respectively, are laid downin the annual Regulation of the cod, haddock and saithe fisheries north of 62o N.

The Regulation with annexed maps (In Norwegian)


As part of the management measures for lobster, four pilot lobster MPAs were established in 2006. The provisions laid down in the Regulation related to MPAs for lobster prohibit fishing in the MPAs except with hook and handline. The number of areas increases every year and 3 more will be included in 2021.

The Regulation with annexed maps (In Norwegian)


The harvesting of seaweed is conducted according to detailed five year harvest plans for each of the relevant counties along the coast. No-take zones for the protection of seabird habitats are included in the plan.

Of the harvestable area one fifth is harvested every year, giving seaweed four years to grow before being harvested again.

The Regulation with annexed maps (In Norwegian)

The Barents Sea Monitoring Program – real time closures

Three very important elements of the Norwegian fisheries management regime are the discard ban, the obligation for fishers to leave fishing areas when the intermixture of juveniles exceed certain limits, and the Barents Sea monitoring program for real time closures of such areas.

More than 60 closures, amendments and reopenings are undertaken annually in a successful effort to protect juvenile fish.

The map illustrates that large areas may be closed to fisheries at any one time (in Norwegian)

OECMsat the regional level

Areas covered may vary from smaller areas in the fjords, up to rather huge areas off shore. There are more than 150 smaller areas along the Norwegian coast where local area based management measures have been introduced.

Those measures include protection of spawning grounds, restriction by gear, prohibition against fishing for specific species, and so forth.

Furthermore, part of the year, control and surveillance systems are established in some areas, and during that time, more specific regulations and area based management measures may also apply.


The Norwegian Parliament, Stortinget, established in 2003 and 2007 a network of 52 National salmon rivers (NSR) and 29 National salmon fjords (NSF).

The purpose of NSF and NSR is to give the most important salmon stocks in Norway special protection against possible negative impacts from certain activities in the rivers, and from salmon farming in the surrounding fjords and costal areas.

In many of the 29 NSF farming of anadromous fish is prohibited, and existing farms in these fjords had to relocate and move out.

In the reminder of the NSF no new farm sites can be localized and farming at existing sites is subject to restrictions.

The map illustrates the National salmon fjords (in Norwegian)

Vulnerable marine ecosystems protected

With a regulation, which entered into force on 1 September 2011, Norway takes the lead among fishing states as 800 000 km2 of deep ocean is closed for regular bottom fishing. As a comparison the Norwegian mainland covers an area of approximately 324 000 km2. An additional 440 000 km2 was protected in 2019 as the coverage of this OECM was extended northwards in the areas around Svalbard.

Updated: 19.03.2015