A study from 2001 indicates that 77.4% of the Norwegian population lives in what we define as the coastal zone. The Norwegian poet Alexander Kielland has written of Norwegians that "they live their entire lives with their faces turned towards the sea", and he refers to the sea as both friend and foe.
The ocean has given Norway prosperity. Fisheries have for centuries been our most important export industry, providing the basis for settlement along the entire length of our extensive coastline. These days our interests and future plans are particularly focused on the development in the northern regions - in the Norwegian Sea, the Barents Sea and the coastal areas in the north, and on the petroleum resources that are expected to be found there.
At the same time we are investing in the continued development of the aquaculture industry. A number of fish farms are now being located in more weather-intensive coastal regions than has formerly been common practice. This imposes greater demands with regard to equipment in the way of a consistently high technical standard. The correct dimensioning and flexibility will be important in ensuring that fish farms and other equipment will be robust enough to withstand the forces of nature. Norwegian equipment manufacturers have shown that they can develop technology suitable for rugged natural forces, in our own waters and throughout the world.
Norwegian seafood is exported to some 150 nations. On the whole, the value of Norwegian seafood export increased in 2005 by all of NOK 3.6 billion, compared to the previous year. The total value was NOK 31.7 billion. The EU is still important, but Norwegian seafood also has substantial markets in Asia and in Russia. The total export volume came to approximately two million tonnes. The significance of aquaculture is growing, illustrated by the 573,000 tonnes of Atlantic salmon produced in Norway in 2005 - a 7% increase compared to the year before. For 2006, further growth of 6% is anticipated. Trout has also shown good development, and we can see the framework of new and important aquaculture activity in connection with the farming of cod, mussels, halibut and other marine species.
Most of the commercially viable species that Norway manages are doing well. There is, however, no growth worth mentioning in the future taxation of these species. The continued growth of export value is partially dependent on an increased investment in innovation and R&D - in terms of product development, development of new processes, and new fishing, fish farming and fish processing technologies. The marine resources have all the necessary parameters in place to contribute added value to the nation. One possibility lies in increased exploitation of by-products, which presupposes that we have vessels designed to take care of and transport the by-products to land. Along the same lines, we see how a number of biotechnology companies have succeeded in developing new products based on marine raw materials.
The Norwegian seafood industry stands before a number of challenges. One is to futher develop the technological advances for a more rational, efficient and market-based production. Other equally demanding challenges are related to the need to fight illegal fishing in the Barents Sea, to work for the annulment of barriers to trade in order to improve access to important markets such as the EU and the United States, and, finally, to develop new consumer-based and attractive products.
It is with interest and a heightened sense of anticipation that I participate in the development of our future society - where traditional values and skills, combined with advanced research and ground-breaking technological activity, pave the way for increased prosperity and for allowing people to settle wherever they might wish.
The Norwegian Minister of Fishery and Coastal Affairs