Norway's seafood industry, disappointed with the new aquaculture traffic lights

Contrary to the Minister of Fisheries, the leader of Sjømatbedriftene thinks the new aquaculture traffic lights will result in fewer jobs, less value creation, and decreased export revenues.
The leader of Sjømatbedriftene, Robert H. Eriksson, hit back hard at the Minister of Fisheries and Oceans, Cecilie Myrseth, following the presentation of the new color-coding of the aquaculture traffic light system.

The leader of Sjømatbedriftene, Robert H. Eriksson, hit back hard at the Minister of Fisheries and Oceans, Cecilie Myrseth, following the presentation of the new color-coding of the aquaculture traffic light system.

Photo: Sjømatbedriftene.

"Sjømatbedriftene is deeply disappointed with the Government's color-coding of the traffic light system." This is the reaction of the business organization representing all sectors of the Norwegian seafood industry to the Government's proposal presented by the Minister of Fisheries and Oceans, Cecilie Myrseth.

The organization's leader, Robert H. Eriksson, believes the Government is pursuing a deliberate policy that is turning the coast red. A policy that, according to the seafood organization, will create fewer jobs and ignores both industry and experts. In addition, the CEO of Sjømatbedriftene has demanded that there should be no reduction for those who invest in environmental technology.

Sjømatbedriftene replies to Minister Myrseth

As WeAreAquaculture reported, the new aquaculture traffic lights decision results in six of Norway's thirteen production areas receiving a green light and being able to increase production capacity, five receiving a yellow one and just maintaining it, and two receiving a red light, which will force them to reduce the production. Now, Eriksson has pointed out that in the previous capacity adjustments and color-coding of the traffic light systems, the status was three yellow and two red areas. Following the proposal, the result is five yellow and two red areas. That means two fewer green areas.

Minister Myrseth explained that the basis for this color-coding is her concern that, although the goal is to reduce it, the impact of salmon lice is increasing in several areas. "If the industry is to grow, it must make changes to reduce the release of salmon lice larvae from the facilities," was her comment.

"I share Myrseth's concern regarding the environmental impacts, and agree on the need for changes. But it's not enough to just talk about concerns," was Eriksson's reply. "She must show political leadership. For several years, Sjømatbedriftene has been advocating for schemes that promote zero- and low-emission solutions." However, this was not the only reproach for the Minister.

If the Government claimed with the new color-coding reduction of production in red areas is estimated at approximately 11,400 tons, Sjømatbedriftene has recalled that, if you add up the quantities lost since the traffic light system was introduced in 2018, the total reduction is at least 30,000 tons, probably 40,000 tons.

"How the Minister can claim that a total downsizing of, most likely 40,000 tons, will lead to more jobs, more Norwegian food production, more value creation, and increased export revenues to Norway is a completely incomprehensible argumentation. Everyone understands that the opposite will happen. This is simply this year's biggest logical flaw," Robert H. Eriksson said.

Myrseth accused of ignoring both industry and experts

The seafood industry organization's release also says that, in early February, the Ministry sent a draft regulation on capacity adjustments for aquaculture permits for salmon and trout production in the sea. "The proposal regulates aquaculture production," the release recalls, and the deadline for comments was set for March 15, 2024.

"The fact that the Minister, nine days before the deadline for comments, launches her proposal for color-coding and capacity adjustments for 2024 is somewhat unsettling. This, despite the fact that the hearing addresses key questions regarding capacity adjustments," Eriksson emphasized. "It just shows that the current Government has zero interest in listening to input from the industry and the experts. It borders on being unserious, and one may wonder if there is any point in submitting comments."

Likewise, Sjømatbedriftene points out that in its recommendation to the Government, the expert committee had stated that PO4 (North Hordaland to Stadt) has moved from high to moderate impact, while PO8 (Helgeland to Bodø) has moved from moderate to low impact. "And despite this, the Minister has chosen to ignore the professional recommendations," states the release.

Regarding these two areas, Cecilie Myrseth explained the color-coding directly follows the action rule in the traffic light system in areas where the experts' assessment of the environmental impact is the same in both years, but that for these two zones, the evaluation differed in 2022 and 2023, and that is why they have been considered separately.

"In both areas that have been separately assessed, I have placed the greatest emphasis on the condition of wild salmon. In PO4, I have also emphasized the impact of salmon lice on wild salmon over time and the need to reduce this burden. In PO8, it has been important not to increase the risk of unacceptable impact, and therefore we do not offer growth in this area," she said.

No downsizing for those investing in environmental technology

Moreover, Sjømatbedriftene has said that in addition to them, experts such as the Aquaculture Committee or the Marine Research Institute pointed out that provisions should be made for a zero or low-emission solution, and that the authorities should promote an environmental flexibility scheme. Therefore, the seafood industry organization has accompanied its response to the Minister with a request.

"Sjømatbedriftene demand that those investing in zero- and low-emission technology should be spared from downsizing, while also regaining the production volume from previous years' downsizing. In addition, there should be a conversion solution that allows them to increase production by exchanging production in traditional technology with new zero- and low-emission technology," Eriksson required.

Norwegian seafood industry professionals believe that accelerating zero- and low-emission schemes has many upsides and claim that it will contribute to higher profitability, higher production, more jobs, and better value creation, as well as provide increased fish welfare, lower mortality, and more sustainable production.

However, they point out, this will require billions in investments from aquaculture companies. "It is necessary to have good and appropriate economic incentives that can trigger the investments. We firmly believe that those switching from traditional technology to new environmental technology should receive a minimum triple increase in production volume," Eriksson said. "There is an urgent need to implement this. The aquaculture industry is ready. The time for idleness must be over. The Government must show political leadership and implementation capacity," he added.

"If the Minister is not willing to roll out such a scheme nationwide on the first day, which she should, she should at least initiate a prompt pilot project for the Vestlandet region. Allowing things to continue as they are today will mean a slow death and dismantling of the aquaculture industry in Vestlandet," he concluded. Vestlandet is located in the red areas included in the new color-coding in the aquaculture traffic light system.

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