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Greening Norway’s Salmon Aquaculture

12 January 2016

NORWAY - A recently published paper by Professor Bjørn Hersoug (University of Tromsø) explores four government reforms aimed at reducing the ecological footprint of Norway’s salmon aquaculture industry, writes Sam Andrews for TheFishSite.

Since the 1970’s Norway’s salmon production has increased from under 1,000 tons to 1.2 million tons in 2014. The financial success of the industry is without doubt, but is increasingly meeting opposition from fishers and conservations who are particularly concerned about sea lice and escapee impacts on wild populations.

Whilst salmon aquaculture has both the capacity and market access to increase production, the Minister of Fisheries declared that significant reduction of sea lice and escapee are needed before growth can continue.

In an effort to allow growth of this increasingly important sector for Norway’s economy whilst minimising its ecological footprint, the Government have introduced four reforms to push ‘the greening of Norwegian salmon production’.

Tough sanctions have already been introduced for violation of sea lice limits in farms. Earlier this year, Mattilsynet (the Norwegian Food Safety Authority) issued warning letters to farms in areas where sea lice levels have traditionally been over the limit, stating that stocking up on these sites must be halved in the next production cycle.

Mattilsynet powers go beyond imposing restriction – they can require salmon in heavily infested farms to be slaughtered.

The other three reforms, all aimed at allowing expansion, are still under development. ‘Green licences’ will give aquaculturalists the ability to expand production, if they committed to solutions aimed at reducing sea lice and escapees through measures such as using laser cannons to shot sea lice, and skirts outside of net pens.

A ‘5 per cent increase scheme’ would allow aquaculturalists to increase production by 5 per cent, provided they can keep sea lice frequency down to 0.1 adult female sea lice per salmon in a production cycle - and with a maximum of two delousing treatments. Finally, the new ‘growth regime’ will place greater responsibility for environmental standards on aquaculturalists, with growth only being allowed where it is ‘biologically sustainable’.

Professor Hersoug notes that the four reforms focus on one indicator for environmental health – adult female sea lice frequency, reported by aquaculturalists.

Using one indicator for environmental health is likely insufficient, though further indicators may be introduced later. Furthermore, the link between sea lice frequency and the poor condition of wild salmon and trout is still contested, as is the critical value for sea lice frequency in farms. For some aquaculturalists, reaching targets may prove unrealistic. Concerns regarding the fairness and legality of essentially collective punishment sanctions issued by Mattilsynet have also been raised.

Stakeholders have already noted that some aquaculturalists are under-reporting sea lice frequency. It only takes one bad aquaculturalist in an area for all farms to receive sanctions – or have salmon slaughtered.

Sam Andrews

Sam Andrews
Freelance journalist

Samantha is a marine conservation biologist/ecologist. She holds an MSc in Marine Environmental Management, an Advanced Graduate Diploma (3/4 of a Masters) in Fisheries Management, and is currently undertaking a PhD focusing on marine spatial management for conservation and sustainable ocean use. She has worked closely alongside Government, NGOs, and the fishing industry to help improve the ways in which we interact with the ocean. When she is not doing science, she works as a marine science communicator.



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