When it comes to fish, Norway really is without equal. Around 7% of Norway’s area is made up of water, comprising of thousands of fjords, and a rugged coastline stretching for over 21,000 kilometres – ideal conditions for abundant fish breeding. The Norwegian aquaculture industry is responsible for some of the finest salmon, rainbow trout, cod and halibut in the world. Furthermore, there is a myriad of shellfish aquaculture, including oysters, mussels – over 5,000 tonnes of them – scallops, lobsters, king crabs and sea urchins. This is a haven for fish and for fish farming, and it is little surprise that the world’s biggest, most productive and innovative aquaculture companies are to be found here.
The world’s leading seafood company and the largest producer of farmed salmon, Marine Harvest, is amongst them. The environment is high on the agenda: “Salmon-farming has - in itself - an overall positive effect on the environment. Salmonids are far more effective in their use of feed than other farmed animals,” says Marine Harvest’s Jørgen Christiansen. “CO2-emissions are very low compared to other farmed animals,” he adds. “Fish farming is singled out by the FAO [The Fisheries & Aquaculture Department] as a solution to meeting the increased demand for seafood without depleting the stocks of wild fish.”
An Environmentally Sound Industry
The Marine Harvest Group, which was formed in 2006 from existing aquaculture companies Pan Fish ASA, Fjord Seafood ASA and Marine Harvest NV, takes its environmental responsibilities seriously. Since 2004 Marine Harvest has worked with closely with WWF (World Wildlife Fund) through their salmon aquaculture dialogue, to establish a global standard for sustainable farmed salmon. The goal is to establish a global standard with enough impact to change the whole salmon farming industry globally. This global cooperation has brought WWF and Marine Harvest closer together also in Norway. In April 2008, the company then also formed a partnership with WWF Norway. Amongst the issues on the table are the interbreeding of escaped farm fish with wild populations, which alters the gene pool, and the proper handling of waste products. Marine Harvest has also taken part in projects to monitor levels of CO2 emission.
“We are obliged to minimize this impact and any risks related to it,” says Christiansen. “A main concern has been fish health, and the use of antibiotics, with the risk of residues building up in the environment or affecting wild fish. Over the years, better farming practices and usage of vaccinations has led to huge reductions in the use of antibiotics.” In Norway, the use of antibiotics is kept to a minimum, and negative impacts on wild salmon are also much improved. According to Christiansen, “The number of escaped fish has been falling steadily over the years, and the level of sea lice on farmed fish is now very low thanks to coordinated efforts in the industry.”
|Fish farming in the Faroe Islands – just one of the many places where Marine Harvest has taken Norwegian aquaculture expertise.
© Marine Harvest
In the aquaculture industry, efficiency is the key to achieving environmental goals. With healthier fish and more efficient feed, damaging effects to the environment are reduced. Norway is host to a range of leading companies producing the niche technologies that keep the industry moving forward.
PatoGen Analyse AS, for example, produce testing kits that allow breeders themselves to gather results from samples and send them to PatoGen’s laboratories for analysis. Documentation of a breeders’ quality in relation to disease and traceability can then be provided in keeping with increasing demands by larger food chains to provide evidence of good fish health. Elsewhere, OxSeaVision AS’ patented NetOx technology, which allows oxygen to be added gradually over large areas and ensures that it is taken up, particularly useful in response to requirements in certain areas such as Chile, where there are currently low levels of oxygen occurring naturally in the sea.
“The two highest cost elements are fish health and feed,” says Christiansen. “You could say that healthier fish equals lower risk to the environment. The same goes for feed. Lower feed-consumption saves costs and reduces environmental impact.” Innovations within medicines and vaccinations, equipment, feed and farming practices contribute towards greater efficiency. In each of these areas, Norwegian companies are committed to ensuring that the Norwegian aquaculture is the most innovative in the world. They are supported by the coordinated efforts of the industry, including the Research Council of Norway’s NOK 460 million investments in aquaculture research.
Working together to ensure that the aquaculture industry is ready to meet a worldwide demand both for Norwegian fish and technology, is seen by experts as vital. “Sharing information, learning from the better performing companies and sites and implementing those best practices is an area where Marine Harvest puts a lot of focus,” says Christiansen.
|King salmon – Norwegian farmed salmon has found its way onto dinner plates the world over. © Marine Harvest
Norwegian aquaculture companies of all kinds are today being sought after by countries the world over. Marine Harvest boasts operations from Canada to South Korea, via Chile, the Faroe Islands, China, Taiwan and a whole host of European countries, to name but a few.
Norwegian technology is at a premium: witness, for example, the global market at the disposal of recirculation aquaculture systems (RAS) supplier AquaOptima. The company’s unique, patented system, ECO-TRAP removes settleable solids directly from the tank. Shaoguan Liran Fish Farm, at Guangdong, China, called on AquaOptima for an extensive range of components and recirculation systems. In Iran, AquaOptima won a NOK 20 million contract for the supply of all technology to a farm for the production of Barramundi in Iran. Increasing demand for Barramundi, coupled with AquaOptima’s experience in the design and supply of similar farms were crucial here.
These contracts demonstrate the increasing marketability of Norwegian commercial technology. Whilst the wild catch is in decline, Norwegian expertise is in high demand –this industry is one of the fastest growing sources of animal production in the world. Sustainable development in fish farming is capable of significant contributions to world food production.