One of the biggest obstacles to the sustainable growth of Norway’s salmon farming industry is sea lice, said Frank Nilsen, Professor University of Bergen.
We are now treating five times more salmon than we did before, he said.
More knowledge is therefore needed on sea lice and we need to develop new solutions to dealing or preventing them.
So what has been done so far? So far there are around 998 journal articles looking at sealice. This number may seem a lot but when you look in comparison to journal articles on ticks and malaria which are limiting factors to agriculture the number of articles is 85,000 and 194,000 respectively.
This demonstrates the huge knowledge gap we have in salmon farming, he explained.
The Centre of Research Based Innovation in Norway is working on long term research to help innovation and to establish new research tools for sea lice.
Another problem sea lice pose is that they are becoming resistant to drugs. The centre is therefore looking into new medicines, immunology and is developing a LiceBase.
Kristine Gramstad, Communication Director for Marine Harvest also mentioned how tackling sea lice is part of Marine Harvest’s and the Global Salmon Initiative’s (GSI) long term plan.
Marine Harvest is strengthening its efforts for non-medicinal lice control through management practices for optimal sea lice control and optimising the use of cleaner fish.
Marine Harvest also sees the future of salmon farming in Norway to be one which is committed to making improvements all-round through Aquaculture Stewardship Council (ASC) certification. Marine Harvest is targeting 100 per cent certification to ASC by 2020.
The ASC certification requires that companies:
- comply with all laws
- protect wild salmon
- use resources sustainably
- protect the environment
- responsible production
Being certified to ASC has also allowed Marine Harvest increased control over its seabed impact as ASC requires more sampling and monitoring.
ASC certification has also helped the company improve its transparency and communication as now people from across all of the company need to sit down to have discussions.
Looking to the future of salmon farming in Norway, Ms Gramstad said the company hopes to see more farms committed to ASC.
Examining the future growth of Norway’s salmon farming, Per Grieg junior, Chairman of Grieg Seafood, stated that continued political support will be key and that Norway is poised to do well as its politicians do believe that aquaculture is the country’s future.
The country also has the ability to grow up to ten per cent each year without affecting its salmon prices, he said. If supply increases by more than 10 per cent in Norway then salmon prices start to drop.
In terms of where farms will be located, the future appears to see more farms being located offshore, as research progresses, or in open sea cages. The growth in land based production at present does not appear viable due to high costs and competition for space.
Norway takes great pride in the quality of its salmon production and so the quality of its sea sites is very important. Due to this, growth is limited as it can be hard to obtain licenses from the government and so production is limited.
With limited choice of sites to farm, it is important that to ensure the industry’s growth, the best sites are selected.
Ideally, a good site should have water depth above 100m, wave height below 6m, good flushing and stable dissolved oxygen.
For health and biosecurity reasons, the distance to the next neighbouring farm should be a minimum of 3km but it is preferred to have 5km to the next company.
Sites should not be destroyed by overproduction and ideally should be virgin after each fallowing.
For optimal production, a very good site that can take 2 million smolt is ideal but less than 20 per cent of sites can take this number.
To conclude, Mr Grieg said that Norway’s salmon industry will succeed if the country looks at social, environmental and economic sustainability.