Arctic waters, arctic riches: fisheries & aquaculture in the Tromsø region

The Norwegian fishing industry delivered 2.5 million tonnes of live caught fish worth NOK 11.1 billion in 2009, while another 958,054 tonnes of farm-raised fish and shellfish brought a record NOK 22 billion. These results make Norway the second largest fish exporter on the planet – a title that is due in part to the well developed and versatile fishing and aquaculture industry based in the Tromsø region.

Access to the fertile Barents Sea, and to the vibrant research environment represented by the University of Tromsø, related independent and government research institutes as well as the strong business community are key components of this success.

Well-managed Fisheries
The Tromsø region “is very important in the fisheries and maritime sectors,” says Are Kvistad, communications director for the Norwegian Seafood Federation. “It is a good place to work from, if you are working in the seafood business, either in the traditional sector or in aquaculture.”

Tromsø’s central position in fisheries is one reason it is home to Norges Råfisklag, the Norwegian Fishermen’s Sales Association, which organizes and arranges the sales of codfish, shellfish and molluscs that are landed along the northern coast. The Norwegian Seafood Export Council also has its headquarters in the city.

Herring are the largest catch by volume for the Norwegian fishing industry, representing 1.07 million tonnes in 2009, but cod were the most valuable, bringing NOK 2.8 billion in 2009. “Cod is very important to the Norwegian fisheries, and all of northern Norway, especially in Troms and Nordland, the cod industries are perfectly situated to handle that catch,” Kvistad says.

Companies such as Lars Holm Shipping, Norfra Eksport AS, Troms Seafood AS and Unicod AS are among the many Tromsø area businesses that help bring Norwegian fish to markets across the globe.

This cod farm in Øksfjord is one of many that benefit from the role that Tromsø plays in encouraging the Norwegian cod farming industry. © Per Eide studio/Norwegian Seafood Exxport council

Mapping & Protecting the Barents Sea
Whether it’s in mapping and exploring the mysteries of the Barents Sea, or protecting and managing harbours and waterways, the Tromsø region abounds in knowledge-based endeavours, institutes and industries.

One of the most wide-ranging of these endeavours is the MAREANO project, which since 2006 has been creating detailed, comprehensive maps of the Barents Sea, including bathymetric charts, and maps of the seabed, biodiversity, habitats, environmental chemistry and pollution.

The project is one of the most visible Tromsø-related efforts of the Institute of Marine Research, which is working on the mapping with the Geological Survey of Norway and the Norwegian Hydrographic Service. The Institute of Marine Research is Norway’s largest centre of marine science, and its Tromsø branch conducts important research on the Barents Sea, aquaculture and fish stocks such as cod. The MAREANO project is significant not only because of the basic information it supplies about the Barents Sea, but of the synergy that it creates with other research projects and efforts.

Trond Jørgensen, head of MabCent, the Centre on Marine Bioactives and Drug Discovery (see separate article) based at the University of Tromsø, says his centre directly benefits from learning about organisms that the MAREANO project uncovers during its work. “We live next to the most fantastic resources here in the north,” Jørgensen says, especially in terms of the unique and as yet unknown organisms in the Barents Sea.

Tromsø’s clear connections to the sea are also reflected in the presence of companies such as Nofi, a worldwide supplier of innovative maritime products, including oil spill control equipment, fisheries and aquaculture tools and gear, and floating wharves and jetties.

From Growing Cod to Sustainable Aquaculture
Cod has been the linchpin of northern Norway since the Vikings first dried fish so they could colonize Greenland, Iceland and beyond. But with cod stocks in the North Atlantic under pressure, the Norwegian government has committed to building the country’s farmed cod industry.

One important contribution is being made by Nofima Marin, the Norwegian Institute of Food, Fisheries and Aquaculture Research in Tromsø. In addition to the institute’s comprehensive research on all aspects of aquaculture and fish health, Nofima Marin has responsibility for the National Cod Breeding Programme.

Other Tromsø-based organizations, such as Akvaplan-niva, a private consultancy company, offer services related to sustainable aquaculture operations both in Norway and abroad. Akvaplan-niva also offers environmental monitoring, consultancy and research and has been instrumental in building bridges with Russian partners. The company is one of the driving forces behind the annual Arctic Frontiers international conference held every spring in Tromsø.

The herring fishery is Norway’s largest by volume. © Norwegian Seafood Export Council

Training Tomorrow’s Marine Biologists & More
The Norwegian College of Fisheries Science, a part of the University of Tromsø, offers programmes in resource management and economics, fisheries biology, fish health, and marine food science, as well as an international master’s degree in international fisheries management.

But the university’s offerings go beyond traditional students. In May 2010, the university signed an agreement with Kystverket, the Norwegian Coastal Administration, to offer tailor made programmes that will improve navigational skills for Arctic waters as well as to conduct research on the challenges inherent in sea transport in the Arctic.

Tromsø’s maritime educational offerings also include the Tromsø Maritime School, a secondary and technical training school with roots extending back to 1864. The school trains students in the art of seamanship, navigation, transport and logistics, and safety, while its educational vessel, the MS Kongsnes, sails the northern Norwegian coast to offer safety training to fishermen. In recognition of all these strengths, the Norwegian government named Tromsø as the country’s Centre for Marine Bioprospecting in 2009. “We have invested in the future by building expert research communities and the necessary infrastructure,” said former Fisheries and Coastal Affairs Minister Helge Pedersen of Tromsø. “With this combination in place, and through further development, we aim to take advantage of our unexploited marine
biological resources.”

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