Fishing is of modest importance, with 2,646,000 tons caught in 2001. The main commercial species are herring, cod, mackerel, and sardines. The value of fish and fishery products exported in 1997 was $3.4 billion, with exports to the EU market accounting for 66% of the value. In 1998, exports of fish reached a record $3.72 billion—double the 1988 value.
Cod spawn in March and April off the Lofoten Islands. The Lofoten fisheries are coastal, permitting the use of small craft, but there has been increased use of large trawlers that fish in the waters of Greenland, the Norwegian Sea, and the Barents Sea. Cod roe and liver (yielding cod-liver oil) are valuable byproducts. In recent years there has been concern about declining wild fish stocks in the sea, but for Norway the wild fish catches seem to increase almost every year. According to the Norwegian Institute of Marine Research, the most important fish stocks in northern Norwegian waters have stabilized, and will remain at a high level in the years to come. The traditional wage system is on a share-of-the-catch basis. In view of the seasonal nature of the fisheries, many men work also in agriculture or forestry, and the supplementary income from part-time fishing is important to small farmers.
Aquaculture is also important in Norway, with over 3,500 workers and 700 facilities located along the entire coast from the Swedish border in the south to Finnmark far north of the Arctic Circle. The production of farmed salmon reached 411,000 tons in 2001 from 820 fish farm operations.
In 2000, sealing expeditions hunting in the Arctic Ocean caught 20,549 seals. Norway was one of the four countries that did not agree to phase out whaling by 1986, having opposed a 1982 resolution of the International Whaling Commission to that effect. In 2000, 487 minke whales were reportedly caught.