Norway's Director of Fisheries, Frank Bakke-Jensen, has proposed new regulations to improve the accuracy of fish counting in aquaculture production units.
The move comes after years of challenges faced by the Norwegian Directorate of Fisheries due to low accuracy in tracking fish numbers in cages, Bakke-Jensen said.
A recent report, commissioned by the Directorate of Fisheries and Norway's fisheries and aquaculture research funding body FHF, highlights that discrepancies in fish counts often begin at the stocking stage.
Fish are frequently not counted as they are placed in each cage or production unit, a violation of Section 44 of the aquaculture operation regulations, the Directorate says.
According to Britt Leikvoll, section manager for strategic aquaculture in the Directorate of Fisheries, this initial inaccuracy affects number control throughout the production cycle.
The new regulation would require fish to be counted at the time they are placed in individual cages.
Stocking is typically carried out using well boats equipped with counters, and the Directorate believes that the proposed counting process would thus not significantly increase fish handling.
The Directorate said it anticipates that implementing such accuracy requirements could spur advancements in counting technology for fish farming.
"We envisage a transition period to allow for such development," Bakke-Jensen said.
The push for more accurate counting aligns with the current trend of larger aquaculture production units, which poses challenges to existing regulations on the number of fish per unit.
“Significant improvement in number control is necessary if we are to change regulations related to number restrictions,” Leikvoll stated.
Furthermore, the lack of precise number control complicates the assessment and environmental monitoring of fish escape incidents in aquaculture.
The industry is regulated based on permits specifying the maximum allowed biomass and a cap on the number of fish per unit. The Directorate of Fisheries is tasked with overseeing these regulations.
Leikvoll also noted that inadequate number control impacts the industry's compliance with voluntary environmental certification schemes, which have specific requirements for escape rates and counting accuracy.