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Improvements Must Be Made if Aquaculture Industry to Grow

12 August 2015

NORWAY - The aquaculture industry is eager to expand, and governments of all political colours support this desire. A new research report shows, however, that public administration and the regulatory framework must be improved if the industry is to grow.

Political objectives are not enough to bring about the conditions required for Norwegian aquaculture to grow. Acts of Parliament, ordinances and regulations constitute important conditions within which the industry must function.

Scientists from Nofima, UiT The Arctic University of Norway, the University of Stavanger, and the Norwegian University of Science and Technology have surveyed this framework in a new report and discovered several aspects of administration that can be improved.

The report details the principal challenges that must be faced to achieve sustainable growth in the aquaculture industry.

A narrow view of sustainability

“The administration of the aquaculture industry focuses solely on environmental sustainability, and attention is concentrated into a few environmental parameters. In order to achieve the goal of sustainable development, social and economic sustainability should be included,” says Senior Scientist Otto Andreassen of Nofima.

The concept of sustainability stands on three pillars: environmental, economic and social sustainability. All three of these must be considered for growth in the industry to be said to be sustainable.

“The systems currently in use cannot weight various interests in a comprehensive manner. It may be the correct decision from an environmental point of view not to allow an aquaculture facility to be established at a particular location, but an overall evaluation that considers also employment opportunities, the spread of disease, and the development of the industry may support the establishment of the facility here,” explains project manager Roy Robertsen.

Stricter requirements for aquaculture

The report points out that stricter sustainability requirements are placed on the aquaculture industry than on other food and resource-based industries.

“Environmental considerations alone form the basis for growth in this industry. What would happen if the same was true also for other resource-based industries, such as the oil industry, agriculture, fishing and mineral mining?” asks Andreassen in a rhetorical question.

The scientist points out that the footprint left by agriculture – the cultural landscape in Norway – is widely accepted, and significant resources are invested to preserve it. The footprint of the aquaculture industry is accepted to a much lesser degree than those of other industries.

“We believe that the different ways of defining what is sustainable in different industries leads to a skewed and negative competition situation. Politicians should consider using more industry-neutral sustainability principles for all food and resource-based industries,” says Andreassen.

The regulations currently in force make rapid adaptation and change difficult. Even small adjustments of cages and facilities are subject to a complete placement application, and create a great deal of extra work for both the industry and the administration. The report also emphasises that the provisions that govern impact analyses do not include a requirement to include the positive effects of the aquaculture industry.

A maze of regulations

The administration of the aquaculture industry is complex, and it is subject to several different Acts of Parliament. Several government agencies are responsible for the various acts. Planning permission in coastal zones lies at the interface between central government and local self-determination, and these two are not coordinated. Tension can thus arise that may prevent good solutions being adopted, in the way, for example, that various locations are used.

The survey revealed also that guidelines for case management and investigation are deficient. Considerable leeway is given for discretionary decisions, and this leads to poor predictability for industrial players.

The scientists recommend that the administration becomes more coordinated and comprehensive, and that it includes consideration of other users and interests in the coastal zone.

“We must have a simpler, more industry-neutral and more predictable administration, if the aquaculture industry is to have the same opportunities for growth,” says Nofima scientist Otto Andreassen.

The report is part of a project for the Norwegian Seafood Research Fund (FHF). The purpose of the project is to draw up suggestions for simplification of the current regulations and how they are applied. Nofima is leading the project, in collaboration with UiT, UiS, the Norwegian University of Science and Technology and the law firm Kyllingstad Klevland.

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