Processing of cod farming applications picks up momentum in Norway

After approving new guidelines, the Norwegian Food Safety Authority has restarted processing applications for setting up cod farming sites that had been stalled since March.
Cod farm of Norwegian producer Ode.

Use of light in an Ode site to prevent early maturation of farmed cod. This is one of the key factors in Mattilsynet's new guidelines for assessing risks when processing applications for cod farm sites.

Photo: Ode.

The Norwegian Food Safety Authority (Mattilsynet) announced this week its decision to resume the application process for the establishment of cod farming sites. It had been stalled while new guidelines on the welfare of farmed and wild cod stocks were established. Producers, who had been waiting months for the news, have received it with optimism. "Finally, the processing is gaining momentum," said the Norwegian Cod Cluster on its LinkedIn page.

The new guidelines established by Mattilsynet have taken into account a regulatory amendment that specifies the prohibition of cod farming in both spawning fields and spawning areas for wild cod.

The proximity to spawning and nursery areas, key in the guidelines

As noted in the Norwegian Seafood Council's latest report on Norwegian seafood exports, last May, after the end of the skrei season, farmed cod accounted for no less than 33% of the export volume of fresh cod, meaning that one out of every three Norwegian cod exported in May came from aquaculture, the export volume of farmed cod increased by 90%, and its export value increased by 128%.

With this demand, companies are only growing and, with them, the need for new sites to establish farming facilities. However, as cod producers regularly repeat, the farmed cod industry is still relatively new, and it is therefore the time when both the authorities and the producers themselves see the need to set guidelines that will shape the future of this industry.

Thus, for example, last March the Norwegian Institute of Marine Research developed a new protocol that shows the maturity stage of farmed cod from immature to spawning. "If the farmed cod escapes from facilities or spawn in pens, there is a risk of long-term genetic mixing of farmed cod into the wild cod population," marine researcher Maud Alix explained then.

This tool - which had been requested by the Norwegian Directorate of Fisheries - was intended to help farmers more easily monitor whether fish are approaching sexual maturity and thus take action before there is a risk of fish spawning in the pen.

As said, proximity to spawning and nursery areas for wild cod is precisely one of the key factors that the Norwegian Food Safety Authority will take into account in the risk assessment when processing new applications to establish nursery sites.

A comprehensive review of cod farming's knowledge status and experiences

In the release announcing the restart of processing applications for setting up cod farming sites, Mattilsynet said it assumes that the management of cod farming should contribute to the greatest possible value creation within sustainable frameworks, but it also pointed out that this includes taking into account the welfare of both farmed and wild cod stocks.

In addition to the spawning issue, another focus of the Food Authority when processing applications will be the assessment of disease risk in cod farming and the spread of infections to and from the facility to wild cod stocks. The guidelines give recommendations on minimum distance to different types of businesses, size of facilities and surrounding environment, etc.

"We hope the new guidelines will provide strong support in assessing the risk of disease and infection spread to and from wild cod stocks, and ensure that Mattilsynet processes establishment applications for cod farming in a consistent manner," said Section Leader at Mattilsynet, Lise Rokkones.

The Authority - which recalls it assesses applications for setting up sites based on fish health and welfare considerations, not on public health and food safety considerations - is working to strengthen the knowledge base on cod farming and to that end, it says, it maintains a good dialogue with industry stakeholders, other management agencies and the Marine Research Institute.

"We are planning a comprehensive review of the knowledge status and experiences from farming, where industry stakeholders, knowledge institutions, and management will be invited. We hope this will contribute to the sustainable development of the cod farming industry," Rokkones concluded.

Related Stories

No stories found.