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The fisheries of Denmark.

The Fisheries of Denmark


Danish fishermen increased their landings of fish and shellfish 17 percent by quantity of 1.8 million metric tons (t) but the value of the catch decreased 2 percent to about $504 million (1) in 1988. Landings of edible fish decreased slightly to 0.3 million t, while landings of fish for reduction into fishmeal and oil, increased by more than 20 percent, to 1.5 million t. Danish exports of fish and shellfish products totalled $1.9 billion, some 3 percent above 1987, giving the country a trade surplus of $0.9 billion. The European Community (EC) was Denmark's most important market, purchasing nearly 70 percent of the country's total fishery exports in 1988. The Federal Republic of Germany is the largest single destination for Danish seafood exports. Danish imports of fishery products amounted to 0.6 million t worth $0.8 billion.

Government Programs

Resource Management

As an EC Member State, Denmark is required to faithfully execute the terms and provisions of the EC's Common Fisheries Policy (CFP) and other EC regulations and directives. Danish Fisheries Minister Lars Gammelgaard and members of his staff administer several programs designed to maintain or expand fishing opportunities for Danish fishermen, while at the same time ensuring that Danish quotas allocated under the CFP are not exceeded. Some of the management programs initiated in 1987-88 include the following items.


A seasonal division for EC quotas allocated to Denmark was established. Fishermen also were allowed to supplement their catch quotas for cod, haddock, and saithe as well as herring and mackerel in the pelagic fisheries. Minimum fish sizes for cod, haddock, saithe, and plaice were increased in 1987 and 1988.

Vessel Limitations

Access to sprat stocks was restricted to vessels under 19 m in kattegat and under 22 m in Skagerak. These smaller sized vessels were prohibited from catching herring and from fishing in other waters. Vessels over 22 m were granted access to "industrial" fish species (for reduction to fishmeal and oil), but no to sprat stocks.

north Sea and Greenland

Herring and mackerel fishing by purse seiners in the north Sea and shrimp fishing in the waters off Greenland were managed by means of a licence system based on a quota per vessel. Regulatory measures were also adopted for coastal fishing.

Financial Aid to the Industry

The DAnish Government extended about $1 million in grants to develop or improve plants processing or storing fish and fishery products for human consumption. These Danish grants were made in accordance with EC Regulations (355/77) which identify specific areas where subsidy programs may be given as part of the CFP. The grants are limited to a maximum of 25 percent of project costs.

The Danish Government in 1988, also approved about $1.6 million in grants to improve the profitability of the Danish fleet and to upgrade the quality of the raw material being delivered to processing plants. These grants are allocated for modernization of fishery vessels. According to EC regulations (4028/86), smaller sized fishing vessels (less than 12 m) can obtain financial support on the same conditions as larger vessels (those over 12 meters). Grants are designed to speed the introduction of new and improved technology: more effective fishing techniques, faster fish handling, energy savings, and improved safety for fishermen. Under the provisions of the 1988 annual Appropriation Acts, grants of $705,000 were allocated to promote experimental fisheries and grants of $90,000 were given to Danish aquaculture projects (representing 10 percent of project costs), in accordance with EC Regulations (4028/86).

The Royal Danish Fisheries Bank (Kongeriget Danemarks Fisheribank) provided $38 million in loans in 1988, of up to 70 percent of the construction costs of new fishing vessels, and of up to 60 percent of costs of purchasing second-hand vessels. The Fisheries Bank also granted loans to cover as much as 60 percent of the cost for the purchase of processing plants and machinery. Interest rates for the loans corresponded to the market rates of interest and repayment is scheduled over 10-20 years.

Fishing Fleet Reduction

The EC published regulations for reducing the fishing capacity of the EC fishing fleet in 1985. The result, for Denmark, has been a substantial reduction in both the number of licenses granted to fishermen and in the number of new vessels allowed to join the Danish fishing fleet. The main elements of the EC regulations as they apply to Denmark are: 1) Only allow entry of vessels of the same capacity to replace vessels withdrawn from the fleet> and 2) Within a limit of 15 percent of the reduction in the fleet capacity to allow building of new fishing vessels, modernization which increases the capacity by less than 15 percent, and vessels which are used exclusively to fish noncritical stocks (stocks for which there were no regulatory measures).

In implementing the EC directive, grants are available for the permanent withdrawal of vessels from fisheries within EC waters. A total of $6 million was appropriated for the years between 1984 and 1986 and $45 million for the years 1987 through 1991. Since the introduction of the program for the permanent withdrawal of vessels in 1987, the Danish fishing fleet has been reduced by about 7 percent, from 136,000 gross registered tons (GRT) to 126,000 GRT. No financial assistance was granted for the construction of new fishing vessels in 1987 and 1988.

International Agreements

The European Community is responsible for negotiating all international fishery agreements affecting Danish fishermen, including fishery agreements with the Faroe Islands and Greenland. Denmark, however, is reponsible for conducting international negotiations on behalf of the Home-Rule Governments of both the Faroe Islands and Greenland. This sometimes places Denmark in the unique position of seeking to expand access for EC fishermen (i.e., Danish fishermen) in waters off Greenland, for example, while, at the same time, being responsible for reducing EC fishing in these same waters.

Denmark also has concluded fishery agreements with Norway and Sweden, within the framework of the EC Common Fisheries Policy, concerning fishing in the Skagerak and the Kattegat. In 1988, Sweden allocated to the EC 2,500 t of cod, 1,500 t of herring, and 170 t of salmon, in the contested "white zone" between Sweden and the Soviet Union. On 12 December 1988, however, a joint protocol was signed in Riga dividing up the "white zone" between Sweden and the Soviet Union, ending years of conflict between the two nations, but also ending EC access to the zone on 31 December 1988.

When it became apparent to Danish fishermen that they would lose their access to the "white zone" off Sweden, they pressured the Danish Government to approach the EC to open negotiations with the Soviet Union to provide access to Soviet-controlled waters in the Baltic Sea. EC negotiators met with Soviet officials in Moscow on 8-9 September 1988. These were the first fishery talks between the EC and the Soviet Union since 1977, when the EC extended its international fishery boundaries, excluding the foreign fisheries. The opening of negotiations was an important step because for years the Soviet Union did not recognize the EC and refused to meet with EC fishery officials. Negotiations were continuing, but the results were not yet clear. Danish fishermen were particularly eager to receive permission to fish for cod in Soviet-controlled portions of the Baltic Sea.

Danish fishery interests with the neighboring German Democratic Republic (GDR) began a new era of cooperation when, on 14 September 1988, Danish officials and representatives of the GDR initialled an agreement recognizing Danish sovereignty over waters around the island of Bornholm and dividing the Continental Shelf and fishing zones between the two countries, ending a long dispute. The ratified agreement entered into force on 14 June 1989.

Sanitary Regulations

General regulations concerning the catching, storing, carrying, freezing, preserving, processing, and the sale of fish and shellfish products are codified in the Fisheries Act of Quality Control with Fish and Fisheries Products No. 339 of 29 May 1987. Control is carried out by the Danish Fish Inspection Service. In accordance with EC regulations, all Danish companies storing, handling and/or processing fish and fishery products must be authorized by the Ministry of Fisheries. By the end of 1988, there were about 400 plants authorized to store, handle, or process fishery products in Denmark. There were 108 firms registered in Greenland, including factory ships and several vessels which are able to cook shrimp using onboard equipment.

Quality is of great concern to Danish fishermen and processors because of the importance of the quality-conscious FRG market which accounts for nearly one-fifth of Danish exports. In 1987, reports of nematodes in fish were televised on West German Television and fish consumption declined dramatically. On 8 August 1988, the FRG published new regulations on the handling and processing of fishery products. Danish fish processors were well prepared to meet or exceed these strict standards.

Imported fish and fishery products must comply with all EC regulations enforced in Denmark. Before importing any fish or shellfish product, an importer must notify the Danish Fish Inspection Service, which may perform laboratory control of samples. Fishery products destined for export are also covered by the sanitary regulations.


Denmark had 635 registered fish farms in 1988, including 565 freshwater farms (mostly raising rainbow trout), 38 salt-water farms (mostly raising seatrout in salt water), and 32 farms devoted to raising European eels, Anguilla Rostrata. Total aquaculture production has remained steady in recent years, mostly because of environmental concerns which led to a ban on establishing new fish farms. Because of this ban, no new fish farms have been established and expansion of existing saltwater installations has been prohibited since December 1986. As a result, Danish aquaculture harvests have changed little since 1985 (Table 1).

In 1988, Danish fish farms received permission from the FRG to sell their saltwater-raised trout as "salmon trout." The decision was not uniformly welcomed in West Germany, since it causes confusion among consumers. Danish fish farmers do not raise Atlantic salmon because restrictions on new fish farms have prevented culture of this high-valued species.

Fleet and Fishermen

The Danish fishing fleet consisted of 3,007 powered vessels in 1988, a decrease of 205 vessels from the 3,212 vessels registered in 1987 and the 3,243 vessels in 1986. The total tonnage of the Danish fleet declined by 7 percent, to 126,000 GRT in 1988, when compared to 1987. The decrease is due in large measure to the EC program to reduce the size of the members' fishing fleets. In 1988, Denmark was one of only two EC countries to meet the EC goal> fishing fleets in a number of other countries increased slightly, despite the EC programs.

The Danish fishing fleet is dominated by small vessels> more than two-thirds of the fleet consists of vessels below 25 GRT (Fig. 1). Most of the Danish fishing fleet operates out of ports on the island of Bornholm (285 vessels), followed by Friderikshaven (262 vessels), Esbjerg (208 vessels), Skagen (205 vessels), and Hirtchals (190 vessels). The remaining vessels were registered at 25 other ports in Denmark (Fig. 2).

By the end of 1988, there were about 8,000 fishermen registered in Denmark, including 2,200 who are members of the Danish Fishermen's Producers' Organization (DFPO) which was established in 1973, according to EC regulations for the Common Market Organization for fishery products. The DFPO guarantees its members certain minimum prices for their landing of fish. Two other organizations, the Purse Seiner's Producers Organization and the Skagen Fishermen's Producers' Organization, also provide price supports to their members.


Danish landings of fish and shellfish have averaged about 1.8 million t during the past decade. Landing peaked at 2.0 million t in 1980 and declined to 1.7 million t in 1987. In 1988, total landings by Danish fishermen in Danish ports increased by 17 percent to 1.9 million tons. This was a recovery from the 1.7 million t harvested in 1985, but is below the 2 million t caught in 1980. Landings of fish and shellfish destined for human consumption, however, decreased by some 3 percent to 389,000 t (Fig. 3, Table 2).

Most of the Danish fisheries catch is made in the North Sea (72 percent), Skagerrak (12 percent), Kattegat (5 percent) and Baltic Sea (6 percent). Danish landings in domestic ports were valued at $504 million, 2 percent below the value of landings in 1987. The principal ports where most of the Danish fish catch was landed in 1987, included: Esbjerg (687,000t), Thyboron (234,000t), Hirtshals (171,000t), Skagen (149,000t), Hanstholm (52,000t), and Hvide Sande (43,000 t). Landings of edible fishery products were worth $360 million, while industrial species used to make fishmeal and oil were valued at $144 million, in 1988. Landings of fish for reduction into fishmeal and oil increased to 1.5 million t in 1988, 20 percent above 1987 landings. The landings yielded 338,000 t of fishmeal in 1988, versus 270,000 t in 1987 and 302,000 t in 1986. It is noteworthy that three-fourths of Danish landings, by quantity, consist of fish for reduction which contribute less than one-third of the value of the entire catch> meanwhile, fish for human consumption, one-fourth of landings, account for over two-thirds of the value of the harvest. It is also noteworthy that the catch of fish and shellfish for human consumption is gradually decreasing in Denmark. In addition to Danish landings in domestic ports, foreign fishermen also unload thier catches in Danish ports and Danish fishermen also land a portion of their catch in foreign ports.


Denmark is one of Europe's leading seafood exporters, importing low-value raw material and exporting high-value finished seafood products. During the past 5 years, Danish exports have remained important, providing the country with a source of foreign exchange. However, the seafood industry is relying more and more on imported fishery products to maintain its processing plants. Imports have gradually increased in recent years as compared with stable export levels (Fig. 4, 5).


Danish imports of fish and fishery products amounted to some 550,000 t in 1988, vs. 494,000 t in 1987 and 454,000 t in 1986. Danish imports have been growing at about 10 percent per annum during the last few years. The value of Denmark's imports, however, remained stable at $870 million in 1988. Shrimp was the most important item> imports of shrimp amounted to $330 million in 1988, representing almost 40 percent of total Danish imports in value terms.

In 1988, U.S. seafood dealers exported 1,992 t of fishery products valued at $10.7 million to Denmark. This include $6 million worth of chum salmon and $1.5 million worth of other salmon (including fillets, canned salmon, and salmon roe). Danish importers also purchased $1.8 million worth of seaweeds from the United States in 1988. The U.S. Embassy in Copenhagen in 1987, reported that the best prospects for U.S. suppliers in Denmark include whitefish fillets, eels, salmon roe, lobster, and crayfish.


Danish exports of fish and shellfish products amounted to 823,300 in 1988, a 5 percent increase over 1987 exports of 804,000 t. Fishery exports were worth about $1.7 billion, some 3 percent above 1987. Canned or prepared seafoods were the most valuable commodities, earning $375 million, 11 percent above corresponding 1987 levels. Shrimp was by far the most important item in this group, representing a total value of $165 million. Uncertain market conditions for traditional groundfish products, such as cod and haddock, have depressed Denmark's export earnings from frozen fillets which dropped from $405 million in 1987 to $315 million in 1988. Other important export earning commodity groups include shellfish, cured fish, whole fish (fresh and chilled) and freshwater fish (mostly trout).

In 1988, exports of fishmeal increased both in terms of value and quantity. A total of 252,373 t was exported in 1988, 26 percent above the 200,000 t exported in 1987 and 225,000 exported in 1986. The value of Danish fishmeal exports was $150 million in 1988.

The European Community was by far the most important market for Danish fishery products in 1988, purchasing $1.3 billion worth of Danish fishery exports, equivalent to 70 percent of Denmark's total export earnings. The FRG was the largest single market for Danish fishery exports in 1988, accounting for $348 million, or nearly one-fifth of total exports. Danish exports to the UK increased from $197 million in 1987 to $204 million in 1988.

Outside the EC the main market outlets for Danish fishery products, by value, in 1988 were: Japan (7 percent, $139 million), Sweden (6 percent), Switzerland (5 percent), and the United States (4 percent or $72 million, down from $138 million in 1987). The weaker U.S. dollar and the lower prices for frozen cod blocks in the U.S. market contributed to the decline in sales of Danish fishery products in the United States.


Danish fishermen are being caught in an increasingly tight squeeze. Fishing quotas for profitable species (such as cod) are growing smaller while restrictions on fishing grounds, seasons, net sizes, etc., increase. The EC is reducing the size of the Danish fishing fleet. Competition, from countries such as Iceland and Norway, has grown in recent years, further increasing pressure to reduce prices on many traditional fish species. Danish fishermen are experiencing difficulty in providing consumers, processors, and export markets with supplies of desired species from domestic fishermen. The rising demand for fishery products is forcing suppliers to increase imports. Limitation on aquaculture suggest that Danish processors will have little option but to import in the coming years.

The long-term outlook for many Danish fishermen is not optimistic. Most of the fleet (2,015 vessels) consists of small fishing vessels (mostly under 25 GRT)> these vessels cannot take advantage of distant fishing grounds where EC negotiations have succeeded in obtaining access for member fishing vessels. There is little chance that stocks of fish in Danish waters or in neighboring waters will increase substantially in the near future, although some fishermen hold out the hope that the EC will be able to negotiate access to the Soviet Baltic waters.

The Danish fleet includes 299 vessels over 100 GRT that can sail to distant fishing grounds. In 1988, several Danish fishermen decided that fishing in the North Sea had become too difficult and set sail for the Indian Ocean where they attempted to fish for tuna. In 1989, it was announced that 20 licenses have been issued to Danish fishermen allowing them to fish in waters off Tanzania and Zanzibar in East Africa. The licenses were obtained by an Anglo-Danish group. Danish fishermen will be allowed to fish for tuna, swordfish, spiny lobster, and shrimp. Vessels participating in this fishery will fly the Danish flag, but must land their catch for processing ashore in the host country. Thus, for larger vessels, the future might be more attractive in distant waters where skilled Danish fishermen can use their experience to assist developing countries expand their fisheries--a mutually profitable endeavor. (Source> IFR-89/89, prepared by William B. Folsom, Office of International Affairs, National Marine Fisheries Service, NOAA, 1335 East-West Highway, Silver Spring, MD 20910.

(1) Value figures are shown in United States dollars, based exchange rates reported by the U.S. Treasury (US$1.00 = 6.660 Danish krone), for 1988.
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Publication:Marine Fisheries Review
Date:Jan 1, 1990
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