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Bergen - Norway's aquaculture & fishing capital

The success of the Bergen region within aquaculture and fishing activities has been achieved through the combined effort of targeted research, a strong financial environment, experienced fish farmers and governmental support. This governmental infrastructure is important and unique – this area is home to much of the national administration and expertise within the industry.

The Directorate of Fisheries leads the way though guidance, support and promotion of sustainable management of resources – vital in helping the Bergen region to achieve long term success, but the list doesn’t end here. The Norwegian Food Safety Authorities Department of Fish and Seafood is located in the city, as well as the National Veterinarian Institute leadership for seafood health. World leaders within marine research abound here, including the Institute of Marine Research and the National Institute of Nutrition and Seafood Research (NIFES). In addition, the University of Bergen’s strong research and educational environment is widely recognized and respected internationally.

The employment possibilities are numerous, both within research as well as with the prospering companies that abound here. Lerøy Seafood Group, one of the world leaders within salmon production can be found here, as well as the second largest salmon feed producer in the world, Ewos. The Norwegian Seafood Center (Norsk Sjømatsenter) is located in Bergen, working to coordinate and better help the industry with marketing, communication and practical support. Finally, from a seafood finance perspective, it is interesting to note that Bergen hosts the only authorized salmon financial exchange – called logically enough – “Fish Pool”.

Commercial fishing has long been an economic backbone of the Bergen region, but recreational fishing, here in Nautnes north of Bergen, is also important and relies on the knowledge generated by the Bergen Marine Research Cluster to protect the health of fish stocks.
© Per Eide/Fjord Norge as

Fish Exporters through the Millennia
The Norwegian Seafood Export Council lists 33 major fish exporters in Bergen, many of which have their roots in the city’s centuries-old tradition of harvesting fish from the sea. In fact, Hordaland hosted over 20% of all the people associated with the Norwegian fishing community in 2005, according to Statistics Norway. That’s the second largest number of fishermen in the country; only the county of Nordland had more.

The steady supply of fish has fuelled the growth of companies such as the Lerøy Seafood Group, which traces its operations to the end of the 19th century. The company’s roots can be traced to fisherman-farmer Ole Mikkel Lerøen, who sold live fish at the Bergen fish market. Lerøen gradually expanded his business to include exports, and by 1939, two of his employees established one of the Group’s principal companies – Hallvard Lerøy AS.

The Synergies of Expertise
In 2008, eight research institutes decided to formalize a synergy of expertise by creating the Bergen Marine Research Cluster, which is composed of Christian Michelsen Research AS, the Institute of Marine Research, Helse Bergen HF, Nansen Environmental and Remote Sensing Centre, National Institute of Nutrition and Seafood (NIFES), Nofima (formerly Fiskeriforskning), UNIFOBAS and the University of Bergen.

“Here in Bergen, we have unique expertise and capabilities within marine research, which we will use to solve large-scale local, national and regional challenges,” Peter M. Haugen, the cluster’s scientific leader, and a professor and head of the Geophysical Institute at the University of Bergen said when the cluster was announced in January, 2008. “Today, we face an increasing number of issues for which it is not sufficient to be an expert in a limited field. There is an increasing need for interdisciplinary work, and the creation of Bergen Marine Research Cluster is a decisive contribution in enabling us to face new challenges in an effective manner.”

The cluster has identified a number of topics as their top priorities, including climate research, the marine environment and resources, marine technology, and research on seafood and health.

Marine Harvest is one Bergen region company with unique expertise and capabilities.
© Marine Harvest/Steinar Johansen

Seafood & Health
Among the most intriguing research being undertaken in Bergen is the work being done to better understand the relationship between seafood and health. “We all know that seafood is good for you; that is a well known statement,” says Livar Frøyland, Head of Research for the Seafood and Health Programme at NIFES, the National Institute of Nutrition and Seafood Research in Bergen, and an adjunct professor of nutritional physiology at the University of Bergen. “But most of the research that has been performed uses components such as fish oil. Intervention trials with seafood are quite rare.”

Frøyland’s group is working hard to change that, with a variety of integrated research projects that look at the effects of seafood consumption on human health. The Bergen Marine Cluster’s Haugen sees this research as critical in the worldwide battle against preventable diseases such as diabetes and heart disease.

Another cutting-edge project is AquaMax, a 4-year, EUR 16 million project that started in 2006, and which is being coordinated at NIFES by Dr. Øyvind Lie, NIFES Director. The project has 32 partners from 14 countries, including cooperators in China and India, and has as its primary goal to replace as much as possible of the fish meal and fish oil currently used in fish feeds with sustainable, alternative feed resources.

Climate Effects Study
When Vilhelm Bjerknes, a Norwegian scientist and one of the founders of modern meteorology, came to Bergen in 1917 to start the Bergen Geophysical Institute, he laid the cornerstone for world-class climate and weather research that continues in the city to this day, often with a focus on the marine environment.

One collaborative project, including the Institute of Marine Research, Marine Harvest Norway, Nofima Akvaforsk/Fiskeriforskning AS, Skretting and NIFES Statistics, is looking at the effects of climate change – but in this case they’re looking at how climate change affects feed utilization and growth in farmed salmon. Rising sea temperatures have already been experienced by Norwegian fish farmers, who have also noted that higher temperatures lead to lower feed intake in salmon.

Ernst Morten Hevrøy, a NIFES researcher, says the Research Council of Norway funded project will identify how much fat and protein salmon use for growth and how much they use to maintain bodily functions when the sea is 19 oC. “The goal is to come up with a feed whose combination of nutrients ensures the growth and wellbeing of salmon and efficient feed utilization in warmer water. This is also important in order to ensure good fish health,” he adds.

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