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Photo: Photo: Marine Harvest.Photo: Photo: Marine Harvest

Area utilization

01.01.2014 // The strategy for an environmentally sustainable Norwegian aquaculture industry states that the industry shall have a location structure and zoning which reduces impact on the environment and the risk of infection.

Norway has a long coastline of cold, clean seawater that provides excellent conditions for sustainable aquaculture activities. However, where the activity takes place is of significance to both the environment and the aquaculture industry. In addition to aquaculture, many other activities such as sea transport, fishing, wind turbines, tourism and leisure activities make use of the coastal zone. Although the coastal areas  comprise a total of 76 000 km2, coastal space is also a limited resource.  How and to what extent we use our coastline is therefore a matter of national interest and is subject to extensive, thorough assessment - and strict regulations. 

Avoiding user conflicts and respecting the environment

The Aquaculture Act recognises the importance of how our coastal zone is used. In order to establish a fish farm, the aquaculture business must apply for permission under the Planning and Building Act, which came into force on 1 July 2009. The Act empowers local authorities to provide space for aquaculture activities in its coastal zone planning in each municipality. Local authority development plans are a vital tool for planning the use of coastal zones. A good plan will help reduce conflicts between various users, such as aquaculture and fishing, and balance their interests against those of major community needs, such as leisure activities, sea transport and conservation issues. Since the planning process is open to public scrutiny, it also confers legitimacy on the aquaculture activity at local community level. Such plans are therefore a vital part of the overall plan for the siting of aquaculture facilities.

It is important that areas of special value to marine resources are protected, such as important spawning grounds for wild fish, coral reefs and major kelp forests. An example of how the Aquaculture Act can be used to protect marine areas is the 29 National salmon fjords, established to protect the most important stocks of Atlantic salmon in Norway.  

How area utilization affects aquaculture production

Effective area utilization is necessary to facilitate maximum production without unacceptable environmental impacts and to ensure the best possible use of the coastal zone. To achieve this, we are dependent on the suitability of the sites and how they are organised geographically, i.e. the siting structure.  This is relevant to infection spread, pollution, biodiversity etc. and for the health and welfare of farmed fish.

Current siting structure is strongly influenced by the steady growth of the industry over many years. The structure reflects the fact that new sites have been approved in the order in which their applications have been granted, with no overall spatial plan. As a result, problems with pollution and certain diseases are becoming a challenge in certain parts of Norway. This indicates that in order to facilitate further growth in the industry, the current siting structure may need to be revised so that the available area can be used more effectively. This could put the industry in a better position to handle its existing and future challenges, such as lack of available area, pollution and the spread of disease. 

What is the government working on

In autumn 2009, the Ministry of Fisheries and Coastal Affairs established an expert group to advise on more efficient area utilization, including how the environment and fish health and welfare could be better protected. The expert group delivered their report in February 2011, which will be an important instrument in the government’s future work to improve the way our coastal zone is utilized. 

Looking for more on area utilization?

More information regarding area utilization and sustainability can be found in the government’s strategy for an environmentally sustainable Norwegian aquaculture industry. 

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