Further Cooperation Vital For Irish-Norweigan Aquaculture

The Fish Site
by The Fish Site
25 September 2006, at 1:00am

NORWAY - Norway's Minister of Fisheries and Coastal Affairs, Helga Pedersen, has called for further co-operation with Ireland on aquaculture education and research.

Further Cooperation Vital For Irish-Norweigan Aquaculture - Norways Minister of Fisheries and Coastal Affairs, Helga Pedersen, has called for further co-operation with Ireland on aquaculture education and research.

In her speech at the joint Irish Norwegian Veterinary Conference in Dublin, Ms Pedersen said that there are both opportunities and challenges to aquaculture that are common to both nations and that it's vital to communicate and learn from each other.

Speech By Helga Pedersen, Minister of Fisheries and Coastal Affairs

Thank you for the invitation. I am delighted to greet you all here at the opening of this joint Irish Norwegian Veterinary Conference at the University College in Dublin.

The relations between Ireland and Norway dates back more than a 1000 years. This state visit gives both countries the opportunity to focus on the joint potentials and challenges for aquaculture in our two countries.

Importance of aquaculture to Norway and to the world
Initially, I would like to focus on the importance of aquaculture in Norway. As a small country, the domestic market is limited, and we are dependent on extensive trade with the rest of the world. A total of 95% Norwegian products are exported to some 150 countries around the world.

In 2005 the Norwegian export of seafood reached a value of 3.7 billion euros. This represents about one third of the total export from Norway, and nearly half of this came from aquaculture.

Equally important as the positive economic output of this industry, is the wide-spread geographical distribution of the aquaculture farms. Aquaculture involves industrial development along the long Norwegian coast - and so it contributes positively to a viable regional development. For Norway - aquaculture is one of the industries that facilitate employment and growth in coastal region.

The worldwide demand for seafood is growing rapidly. Seafood is recognised for its well-documented positive health-related effects. The increased demand has its challenges. We cannot meet the demand by catching more wild fish. Ocean fishing is restricted, due to the call for a sustainable management of the marine resources.

A sound expansion of the aquaculture industry may contribute to close the gap between the future demand from the markets and our supply of seafood. Norway has already experienced en exceptional growth in aquaculture. The potential for further expansion implies, however, many challenges. One of them is to secure the fish health and to avoid diseases throughout the life-span of the fish.

Potential for further growth and the significance of fish health
First of all outbreaks of fish diseases has a direct economic impact for the farmers due to loss of fish, increased expenses and decreased income. During the history of Norwegian salmon farming, several fish diseases have caused great economic losses to the farmers.

Secondly, access to markets is of little value, unless the products fit in with consumers preferences. The public image of fish farming and of seafood from farmed fish is therefore essential. Consumers want safe and healthy products of acceptable quality according to their standards.

There is also a growing demand from the consumer that the production of the fish has no negative impacts on the environment. These requirements from the markets can not be met without a steady focus on fish health.

In the late 80ties and early 90ties bacterial diseases like the Hitra disease, brought along the use of large amounts of antibiotics. Since the peak in 1987, the use of antibiotics in aquaculture has been reduced with incredible 97.5 % - while the production has increased more than 10 times in the same time period.

Nevertheless negative stories are hard to break. Even today a surprisingly large part of the Norwegian public believes that farmed salmon may contain antibiotics and that aquaculture spreads antibiotics to the environment.

This story clearly demonstrates how fish health problems, and the way of managing them, may affect the reputation both of the products, the seafood, and of aquaculture as an industry.

Fish welfare
Last but not least - the concern of the animals. In general there is a close correlation between fish health and fish welfare. Most efforts to secure fish health, also aids to secure fish welfare. In total, these circumstances show the importance of emphasizing on measures to enhance fish health and to prevent fish diseases in aquaculture.

Status for fish health in Norway
We consider the fish health in Norway to be fairly good. Still, there is a need for improvements. Most bacterial diseases have been overcome by the development and use of effective vaccines, together with proper management and other procedures.

The industry is continuously evolving. Vaccination has not yet been equally successful in controlling viral diseases and vaccines against parasitic diseases are still quite new and need to be evaluated.

Are there any alternatives to vaccination? It is important to generate other strategies to stimulate immunity and it is equally important to work on breeding programmes that aims to improve the genetic resistance to diseases by selective breeding. These are all exiting but very difficult subject, which I know you as experts- are going to discuss later today.

Ireland and Norway face many of the same challenges in aquaculture today. The Pancreas disease, that has caused serious problems to Irish aquaculture, is now expanding in Norway.

In short, there are both opportunities and challenges to aquaculture that are common to both our nations. And I believe it is vital for aquaculture nations to communicate and learn from each other.

That includes cooperation on education and research in the Veterinary field. An exchange programme for students has already been established between the University College in Dublin and the Norwegian School of Veterinary Science.

It is now our aim to strengthen this cooperation by founding an Irish Norwegian Chair in Fish health. This process is not yet finalised, however, I can assure you that we will work further on the funding of this position. The intention is to establish a Chair that can contribute to the exchange of scientific personnel and knowledge between Ireland and Norway. I am certain that our two nations will benefit from a close cooperation on these issues.

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