Norway’s salmon-farming industry is hitting a wall. Because salmon farming began earlier there than in British Columbia, I wanted to get a glimpse of where we might be headed if our industry continues on its current path. This is the reason I organized the Wild Salmon Delegation to Norway, which spent two weeks there this month.
What we found is an industry beset by problems such as disease outbreaks, sea-lice infestations and farmed-salmon escapes. The situation in Norway is dire — one headline we saw read: “Five years left to save wild salmon.”
Norway’s fisheries minister Per Sandberg spoke at the Wild Salmon in the North conference in Alta, Norway, acknowledging “the mid-Norway situation has been very serious since the end of December.” The crisis is so bad that the Norwegian industry is making headlines by beginning to shift to closed-containment.
B.C.’s industry is over 90 per cent Norwegian-owned, uses the same methods to rear fish and is plagued by similar problems. Will a shift to closed containment in Norway lead to a similar shift here?
The place where I live — Clayoquot Sound UNESCO Biosphere Reserve — is renowned for old-growth forests and the battles to protect them. But not many people know there are 20 salmon-farm tenures in the sound, with 15 of them held by Cermaq, a Norwegian-based company.
The global salmon-farming industry originated in Norway in the 1970s. By the ’80s, Norwegian salmon-farming companies began to move into British Columbia’s pristine waters. Today, B.C.’s salmon-farming industry is over 90 per cent Norwegian-owned.
While overseas, we learned about the similarities and differences between British Columbia and Norway, heard the emerging Norwegian consensus that open-net pen salmon farming is a dinosaur technology, and witnessed the tide change unfolding daily in major Norwegian media.