Norway has deep traditions as a fishing nation, a long protected coastline, and clean seas with a high water replacement rate and good water quality that provide good biological prerequisites for Norwegian aquaculture production. Once considered a supplementary business to agriculture, aquaculture has since blossomed into half of Norway’s fish exports.
Norway’s fish farming industry dates back to the 1960s, but really began to take off in the 1980s when large-scale salmon production became truly successful. This has been important for Norway’s small coastal communities, as well as a vital source of foreign trade. Last year, Norwegian aquaculture topped NOK 20.2 billion, more than half of Norway’s total seafood exports. Norwegian salmon accounted for a record NOK 18 billion of that amount.
Norway has always played a pioneering role in this industry. In 1866, Norwegian marine biologist G.O. Sars first artificially hatched cod. Today, the two largest aquaculture companies in the world are Norwegian: Marine Harvest, the world’s largest farmed fish producer, and AKVA Group, the leading provider of aquaculture equipment. The two companies became the dominant player in their respective fields as a result of major mergers in 2006.
AKVA started out in the 1980s by making and patenting the first auto feeding system. It also acquired the world’s first plastic cage developer and the first software system for fish farm planning. Since then, AKVA has grown to become the market leader in aquaculture equipment with more than 50% market share in the world for cage systems, barges and feed technology and software.
Norway is currently the largest market for aquaculture technology, but not the largest in aquaculture production, according to Knut Molaug, AKVA Chief Executive Officer. Asia produces more in volume, but has a relatively smaller market for aquaculture technology. He expects Asia to become a more important market going forward and sees a general trend worldwide towards higher intensification.
“The two dominant trends in aquaculture going forward will be a move from sheltered bays to more exposed offshore locations and land-based intensive farms,” said Molaug, “Both of these trends will require more technology and a higher degree of knowledge.”
Marine Harvest is the world’s leading seafood company and the largest producer of farmed salmon with one fourth of the world’s farmed salmon. The company jumped into the lead position following a three-way merger in 2006 between Marine Harvest (then part of Nutreco), Panfish and Fjord Seafood. The Oslo-based company has 7,500 employees worldwide in 18 countries, including Scotland, Ireland, Canada, Chile and the Faroe Islands.
The largest concern in the industry currently is the recent outbreak of Infectious Salmon Anaemia (ISA) in Chile, where Marine Harvest expects that 40-60% of salmon production will be wiped out. Norway is expected to fill part of the gap by contributing more farmed salmon this year. Another issue is farmed fish escapees and their interaction with wild fish. This problem has come under control after large investments in new and better infrastructure and the number of salmon escapes in Norway fallen steadily, down 66% from 2007 to 100,000 last year.
“There will always be a risk of escapes due to circumstances outside of our control, such as sea traffic, but Marine Harvest puts a lot of efforts into controlling and minimizing these risks,” said Jørgen Christiansen, Marine Harvest Communications Director.
“A long and protected coast line with adequate temperatures and weather conditions make Norway a very good country for salmon farming,” he added. “In addition, we have taken advantage of the highly skilled suppliers and research institutions and the authorities’ ability to regulate the industry.”
A History of Effective Regulation
Norway has more than a century of institutional experiences in fisheries management and marine research through the Directorate of Fisheries and the Institute of Marine Research (IMR), both established in 1900. In 1946, Norway became the first country in the world to establish a Ministry of Fisheries.
Norway’s Ministry of Fisheries and Coastal Affairs is responsible for fisheries and aquaculture industries, seafood safety and fish health and welfare, harbours, infrastructures for sea transport and emergency preparedness for pollution incidents. The Directorate of Fisheries, based in Bergen, advises the Ministry on fishing and aquaculture management issues.
Other institutions which cooperate with the Ministry of Fisheries include the Norwegian National Coastal Administration, Norwegian Food Safety Authority, National Veterinary Institute, Guarantee Fund for Fishermen, Norwegian Seafood Export Council, Innovation Norway, National Institute of Nutrition and Seafood Research (NIFES), Nofima, SINTEF, and the Fishery and Aquaculture Research Fund. The latter is a funding scheme for industrial research and development work within fisheries and aquaculture based on a levy of 0.3% on all exported fish and fish products that was set up in 2001.
Billions Worth of Research Cooperation
Norway is a leader internationally in management-related research. This research provides the basis for setting fish quotas and food safety and nutrition issues. It is also active at high, international level in industry-related research in the fishing and aquaculture sector.
The Ministry of Fisheries plans to put approximately NOK 1.4 billion this year towards marine research and development. The largest share, about NOK 600 million, will go to the Institute of Marine Research (IMR), mostly for wild catch sustainability studies. A relatively small share of the Ministry’s funding to the IMR currently goes towards aquaculture research. However, aquaculture research is increasing in importance, according to Jartrud Steinsli, senior adviser in the Ministry of Fisheries and Coastal Affairs, department for research and innovation.
“There is a long tradition for research on wild stocks,” Steinsli said. “Research has also been an important prerequisite for growth in the aquaculture industry and the amount of aquaculture research is growing in importance in line with the growing importance of the industry.”
Based in Bergen, the IMR acts as advisor to the Ministry and performs key tasks in the investigation and monitoring of fish stocks and marine mammals, the marine and coastal environment and activities related to aquaculture and sea ranching. Its research from aquaculture production of salmonids, halibut, cod and scallops, among other species, is used as the basis to the ministry for aquaculture management advice in the fields of health and disease, problems of environmental significance, and questions of genetics related to biodiversity. It is an important contributor to global quota advice through the International Council for the Sea (ICES).
The ministry granted the Research Council of Norway NOK 308 million this year, the second largest R&D allocation after the IMR. Currently, the council’s most important overall initiative with regard to aquaculture research is “Aquaculture – an Industry in Growth (HAVBRUK)”. The programme aims to promote a sustainable, market-oriented, profitable aquaculture industry and help knowledge development of high international standards in areas important to the industry. The programme encompasses the production of salmon and other species at all stages of the value chain, as well as elements of catch fisheries and sea ranching, including the market for lightly processed products.
The Research Council is working on supporting an aquaculture cluster in Bodø together with Innovation Norway, The Industrial Development Corporation of Norway (SIVA), and the Nordland region. Known as the Norwegian Centre of Expertise (NCE) Aquaculture, one of its objectives is to develop cod breeding as a new activity within the cluster. The NCE expects that further development of existing activities, combined with breeding of new species, will lay the found
ation for the cluster’s companies to increase the total value creation by NOK 5 billion and create 600 new jobs in the region by 2017.
“In the long term, aquaculture may well emerge as a key industry for Norway,” said the Research Council of Norway. “The Norwegian aquaculture industry is part of the increasingly competitive global seafood market. A number of major fishing nations are now developing modern aquaculture as an important component of their seafood production. The challenge facing Norway and the Norwegian aquaculture industry will be to maintain the current position as one of the world’s leading players in modern aquaculture.”