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Sustainable Seafood - Where Tradition Meets the Future

In 2010, more than 1 million tonnes of salmon and trout were produced in the clear cold waters of Norway’s deep fjords, an important milestone in the 40-year-long history of the aquaculture industry. At the same time, the country exported NOK 20.4 billion of wild-caught fish. As a result, the combined value of Norway’s exports of wild and farmed fish increased by 20% over 2009, to a record NOK 53.8 billion – or EUR 6.8 billion.

An important factor behind these numbers is sustainability: Norway has made significant advances in ensuring that its seafood, whether farmed or caught, is produced in a sustainable way.

Decisive Progress
In wild fisheries management, a number of the country’s most important fisheries have been awarded third-party certification of the sustainable harvest of wild fish. In aquaculture, industry, government and research groups have joined forces to help create new standards for sustainability in salmon farming, while researchers have made decisive progress in everything from the salmon and cod genome to new eco-friendly formulations of feed.

This drive to protect the long-term health and productivity of the ocean comes from the very top of the Norwegian government, and extends deep throughout Norwegian industry leaders and individuals.

“I can promise you that I will work hard and intensely to ensure that our children and grandchildren will also experience a bountiful, clean ocean, with waters that will provide a livelihood for the next generation of fishermen,” Norway’s Minister of Fisheries and Coastal Affairs said recently, in describing the government’s commitment to sustainability.


Norway’s clear cold waters are ideal for producing farmed
fish, whether traditional salmon and trout, or newer species,
such as cod, halibut and wolffish.
© Per Eide Studio/Norwegian Seafood Export Council

International Success Story
Wild fish population numbers say a great deal about how well or poorly a fishery is being managed. In the resource-rich waters of Barents Sea, the Norwegian and Russian governments have built a sustainable cod, haddock and capelin fishery over 35 years of cooperative efforts.

At a time when the United Nation’s Food and Agriculture Organization, the FAO, reports that 70% of the world’s fisheries are either fully exploited or depleted, Barents Sea stocks have been so well managed that the allowed harvest of fish is actually on the increase.

The allowed quotas for 2011, based on recommendations from the International Council for the Exploration of the Seas, are up over the 2010 numbers by 16% for North-East Arctic Cod, 25% for North-East Arctic Haddock, and 5.5 % for capelin.

In announcing these quotas late last year, Minister Berg-Hansen acknowledged the critical importance of strong management plans. “These strategies have been a key factor in enabling quotas to be historically high,” she said.

Marine Stewardship Council Approval
The benefits of Norway’s strong management stance have spilled over to the advantage of fishermen and industries that depend on the bounty of the ocean. Nowhere is this clearer than in the certification by the internationally recognized Marine Stewardship Council (MSC) of a number of crucial fisheries.

“Third party certification is a clear example that Norwegian fisheries are well managed,” says Bjørn-Erik Stabell, with the Norwegian Seafood Export Council. Virtually all of the nation’s largest commercial fisheries have now received, or are in the process of receiving, third-party environmental certification, he notes.

In 2011, three additional Norwegian fisheries are being evaluated by the MSC, including North East Arctic cold water prawn. Previous certifications include Norway’s offshore Northeast Arctic cod and haddock fisheries and the Norway North Sea and Skagerrak herring.

“Meeting the conditions of MSC certification has had a very positive effect. There will definitely be improvements, even to Norwegian management systems – which are among the best in the world,” Webjørn Barstad, head of department for the Norwegian Fishing Vessel Owners Association said of the 296,000-tonne Norwegian saithe fisheries, which were first certified sustainable in 2008.


Norway has a long tradition of supporting sustainable
fisheries; now, virtually all of the country’s major
wild-caught fisheries have been certified as sustainable
by the Marine Stewardship Council.
© Kjell Ove Storvik/Norwegian Seafood Export Council

Aquaculture Pioneers, Then & Now

Norway’s wild-caught fisheries provide a vital link to the nation’s history as a fishing nation – but Norway’s sustainable production of salmon and rainbow trout is an important step into the future. In a world where farmed fish will provide an increasing percentage of the planet’s protein, Norway is the world’s leading producer of farmed salmon and trout.

Companies such as Akvaplan-Niva, an international environmental consultant firm in Tromsø, export not fish but expertise, both in helping develop new fish species for aquaculture, such as halibut and wolffish, and in providing know-how in locating and operating sustainable aquaculture installations. Lars Olav Sparboe, senior adviser at Akvaplan-Niva, says Norway’s position as an aquaculture nation has led it to develop cutting-edge proficiency in environmental oversight.

Norwegian expertise is also at play in the World Wildlife Fund’s (WWF) Salmon Aquaculture Dialogue, an international effort that is creating sustainability standards for salmon aquaculture. Norwegian businesses and researchers are key partners in the dialogue, including Petter Arnesen, who works with the aquaculture giant Marine Harvest, and who is on the Salmon Dialogue steering committee.

Feeding Fish, Funding Research
Norwegian researchers are also pioneering new ways of producing fish feed with an increasing percentage of plant-based oils and proteins. Reducing the demand for fish-based proteins and oils in fish feed increases aquaculture sustainability – and has the added benefit to producers of cutting feed costs.

The Norwegian National Institute of Nutrition and Seafood has headed a 14-country EU project called AquaMax, which has published findings that fully 70% of the fish oil and 80% of the marine proteins in conventional fish feed can be replaced with vegetable-based ingredients with no adverse affect on fish health – or on the quality of the fish produced.

Norwegian investment in research – which topped NOK 500 million just for HAVBRUK, one of the country’s main aquaculture research projects – has also helped researchers to breed better fish. Norway spearheaded the sequencing of the cod genome, which is complete, and is part of the international effort to sequence the salmon genome. Industry partners have been important players, with the Fishery and Aquaculture Industry Research Fund (FHF) and the companies Marine Harvest, Cermaq, Aqua Gen and SalmoBreed financing a significant portion of Norway’s NOK 60 million contribution to sequence the salmon genome.

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