Former halibut fishing in Norway – A lesson in over fishing. Part 2

The halibut has always been a popular fish in Norway. We know that man has fished halibut since the stone age. Illustrations of halibuts were engraved into stone by proud fishermen. The big halibut was a fish surrounded by mystery and superstition. In those days it is likely to believe that the halibut was caught by using harpoons. They may also had used hooks made of bone.

Fishing halibut with long lines. Photo: Torstein Halsensen

Except from the spawning period, big halibuts can bee found in shallow waters. A big halibut gives the fisherman an unforgettable fight and one fish is enough to feed several families. Fishermen used hooks (on lines and long lines) and harpoons for hundreds of years, but in the 1930’s a new fishing gear was introduced to the fishermen in the northern part of Norway.

In 1936 the first Norwegian halibut-nets were made. The Norwegian government paid the costs for making and trying out ten nets. The nets were set on deep water in Lofoten and the result was outstanding. During the autumt the same year 60 vessels participated in this fishery. The catches were very good, but by the end of the year the halibut “disappeared” from the fishing ground. The fishermen moved their nets to other fishing grounds. It was a success. Equipped with their new nets, the fishermen set their gear on every known spawning ground. The increase in the catches were unbelievable. Using nets for one month gave a better result than fishing with long lines for a whole year. Nothing lasts forever, and the adventure in the north lasted only for a few months. The halibuts were gone. Where did they go? The halibuts had not gone anywhere – the fishermen had taken them all. Norwegian scientists and the government responded quickly. In 1937 a minimum size limit was introduced and it was not allowed to fish with nets in the spawning period. The catches in 1937 were depressing. The number of halibuts entering the spawning grounds were low. The grown halibuts – seeking the limited spawning grounds by instinct – had been an easy prey for the fishermen. Some fishing grounds were “dead”. In other spawning areas only a few halibuts spawned. A halibut is about 10 years old the first time it spawns. You don’t have to be a scientist to figure out that it took decades to rebuild the stocks.

Fishing halibut in Norway. Photo: Torstein Halstensen

Even today, 70 years later, the stocks – both in the north and especially in the south of Norway – are too small. Some halibuts in the south is caught to be tagged. Every year the scientists learn more about the halibut. Knowledge is essential to make us understand the halibut and how the stock respond to the pressure from fishing and changes in its environment.

Tagged halibut in Norway. Photo: Torstein Halstensen

Denne artikkelen har 2 comments så langt!

  1. Torstein Halstensen says —

    Veldig bra skrevet. Fine bilder også siden det er jeg som har tatt dem.
    Du burde også skrevet at minste maskestørrelse på kveitegarn er 23,5 mm for at ikke tilveksten skal fiskes samt at det er forbudt med monofilgarn da det er for effektivt på kveite.
    Minste maskestørrelse på breiflabbgarn er 18 mm og hva er de. Jo, monofil. Men det ingen problem da det kun er lov å sette 500 breiflabbgarn ,14 km, per enmannssjark. Norsk fiskeripolitikk på sitt beste.

  2. admin says —

    Hei Torstein (Svarer på engelsk slik at engelskspråklige også forstår problemstillingen).
    Your photos of halibuts are great and you are absolutely right. The legal fishery for angler fish – where the fishermen can use 500 nets (14 km) – is hard to understand. And, yes – a lot of halibut is caught in these nets though they are not allowed to use for halibut fishing!

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