Six Icelandic factory trawlers have been fishing in the Norwegian and Russian zones of the Barents Sea.One of them is HB Grandi’s Venus, and according to this trip‘s skipper Haraldur Árnason, there are a huge amounts of fish on the grounds, including on the Malaga shallows and the Fugløy bank in the Norwegian zone where the Icelandic vessels have mostly been fishing.
‘The Barents Sea cod quota has been increased by 200,000 tonnes, and you can see why. It’s obvious that there is plenty of cod and the real problem is to keep catches down. Our perfect dose of cod when we are producing boneless and skinless fillets is between eight and ten tonnes, but we can’t trust the sensors here and you just have to rely on instinct. Sometimes things are slow, but then the amount of cod entering the trawl can also be enormous,’ Haraldur Árnason said.
Anyone with an eye on the fishing business will have noticed that prices of cod have been dropping, and the prices that have fallen furthest are those of the largest cod. Haraldur Árnason said that this is a bad development, not least because the average weight of Barents Sea cod is rising.
‘We are getting a lot of five to six kilo cod, but just as the cod are getting bigger, it seems the market wants smaller cod,’ he said.
Venus sailed from Iceland on the 16th of February and started fishing early on the 20th. When we spoke to Haraldur Árnason yesterday, catches had totalled 750 tonnes in live weight of cod. Additional catches were 190 tonnes of haddock and a small amount of redfish. Their previous trip to the Barents Sea had been for 1280 tonnes in live weight, or which 1000 tonnes were cod, so the present trip is not far off matching the one before.
According to Haraldur Árnason, the Norwegian rules are that bycatches of haddock and saithe may not exceed 30%, although there are stricter rules for redfish and Greenland halibut. The percentage of bycatch on the Russian side is also 30%, although changes were made since last year, limiting haddock bycatch to 10%.
The Icelandic trawlers are now fishing in the far north of Norway close to Kirkenes. As well as Venus, Kleifaberg and Mánaberg are fishing in the Norwegian zone. Thór is on its way to the Russian zone after catching its quota on the Norwegian side and Málmey is on its way to the same area that Venus is fishing in, while Gnúpur is steaming home after having taken its quota.