Thursday, September 15, 2011

Strong insitutions help manage Norwegian fisheries

It has been a rainy but interesting few days in Bergen. After arriving early Monday morning, our group, composed of Katherine Bostick (WWF), Michelle Cho (New England Aquarium), Thor Lassen (Ocean Trust) and our host Børge Grønbech (Norwegian Seafood Export Council) and Carolyn Knott (Food Group) headed off to meet with Norwegian Ministry of Fisheries and Coastal Affairs and Directorate of Fisheries to learn about regulations governing the management of Norwegian fisheries and aquaculture operations. Followed on Tuesday by visits with WWF Norway, Institute of Marine Research and Cermaq, which operates EWOS (an aquaculture feed company) and also has salmon farming activities. The time in Bergen wrapped up on Wednesday with a tour by Lerøy Seafood Group (salmon farm operation).

Reports from the IMR
Seafood is an important commodity for Norway's economy, accounting for 6-7% of exports, by value. Significant quantities of Norway's seafood are export as domestic supply far outstrips the demand. While wild-caught fisheries produce significantly more quantity, the aquaculture industry accounts for close to 2/3 of the value of overall seafood production, driven in part by high prices for farmed salmon in recent years.
Strong institutions and management, along with active participation from the industry help to support sustainable seafood production in Norway, though some species still have low populations and face challenges. The Institute of Marine Research (IMR) is one such institution. IMR has been in operation for over 110 years, working to provide the latest science on Norwegian fisheries, which in turn drives policy. IMR is about 50% financially supported by the ministry.

A few of the management measures include:
·       Mandatory fallowing period for all aquaculture sites after every production cycle.
·       Mandatory third-party tests on the seafloor below fish farming sites to determine the level of environmental impact on benthic communities. Sites that are found to have a high impact must have longer fallowing periods and potentially reduce stocking densities in future production cycles.
·       Mandatory landing of all catches, including bycatch species. There is a strong desire to utilize all fish, which is caught; discarding fish at sea is illegal.
·       Licenses are required for all fish farming activities. No new licenses have been issued in the past two yeas.
·       Ban on aquaculture of non-native species.
·       The national government is working with local communities to develop coastal plans

Overall, the level of transparency has impressed me. There are significant investments in research on fisheries and aquaculture (commercial species are prioritized) and much of the data companies report are publicly available.  The government and industry members we were able to meet with have been forthcoming about the work they have done to improve management and sustainability and also about some of the challenges they still face. There also appears to be a high-level of cooperation between the government, industry and NGOs. Though some of the measures are clearly working, Norway has the largest number of MSC certified fisheries in the world and was recently ranked first in the world for compliance with the FAO code of conduct for fisheries.

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