New Norwegian government may signal a new aquaculture policy

Editorial
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Clean-up and clarifications about licenses are clearly on the table of the new Minister of Fisheries.

It was a murky sort of victory for the red-green coalition. Yesterday’s election night was quickly decided. After eight years as Prime Minister, Erna Solberg (Conservative) will be replaced. Jonas Gahr Støre (Labour Party) is the frontman for what will be – by all accounts – a majority government consisting of the Labour Party, Centre Party and Socialist Left Party (SV). There will thus be a repeat of the Stoltenberg governments in the period 2005 to 2013, even though the negotiations have not formally been completed. So what can the aquaculture industry expect from the newly elected government?

Aslak Berge

Tax increase
First and foremost, one can expect an increased tax burden. Particularly from the tax-hungry Socialist Party, but also the Labour Party which has spent months searching for ways to use increased taxation to finance increased welfare, public consumption and investments. For the aquaculture industry, one should not be surprised if the Socialists again start rattling the sabers about ground rent tax during the election period. Then it remains to be seen whether the industrial parties Labour and Centre Party, as well as LO (the country’s largest union), will approve it.

The Ministry of Trade and Fisheries has several undigested issues on its plate. The discussion about land-based fish farms and what can actually be considered as ‘on land’ (and excluding fees for licenses) and at sea is the first thing the new Minister of Fisheries must decide on. One who is particularly excited about this is series founder Geir Nordahl Pedersen, who has applied for, and been rejected, for three land-based plants with a total production capacity of 90,000 tonnes in Solund, Øygarden and Averøy. The outgoing Storting representative Ruth Grung (Labour Party) went to great lengths this spring to promise support to Nordahl Pedersen. In that case, it will set a precedent for several similar applications.

Licenses
Another field where the boundaries must be drawn is offshore farming. Farming in the open sea is particularly in demand by SalMar and Nordlaks, but so far neither the current government nor the top management of the Labour Party or the Centre Party have given satisfactory answers or commitments that can form the basis for billions in investment through the construction of rigs. This can be an enormous industrial adventure, but will obviously also facilitate the export of Norway’s market shares in farmed salmon. Here are many considerations to take and consider. Furthermore, work is being done on new licenses and what criteria these may have.

The outgoing Minister of Fisheries Odd Emil Ingebrigtsen (Conservative) and Minister of State Environment and Climate Sveinung Rotevatn (Liberal Party) forwarded several ideas related to closed cages towards the end of the Solberg government’s term, but it is not obvious that a new government will continue with these. Environmental requirements, traffic lights and sustainability are topics that will become more and more relevant throughout the 2020s and 2030s.

New minister
And then of course comes the question of who will be the country’s next fisheries minister. Here there will be a number of relevant candidates, based on a wide range of criteria and priorities.

For the Labour Party, Cecilie Myrseth appears to be a very relevant candidate. She is already the party’s fisheries policy spokesperson and a member of the central board of the Labour Party. The 37-year-old is a trained psychologist and comes from Troms Municipality, Northern Norway.

Cecilie Myrseth, Storting representative and fisheries policy spokesperson in the Labour Party. Photo: Private

For the Socialist Party, philosopher and real estate investor Torgeir Knag Fylkesnes is the most prominent candidate. The 44-year-old, who commutes in from Tromsø, is deputy leader of the party – a position that should possibly command a more important place at the King’s table. Knag Fylkesnes is “actually a supporter of fish farming”, but is also claiming that the industry is not sustainable.

Torgeir Knag Fylkesnes. PHOTO: Marius Nyheim Kristofferse

In the Centre Party, Geir Pollestad is the one who has stood out most in fisheries and aquaculture policy. However, the 43-year-old from Nærbø is a søring (southerner), a fact that that does not speak volumes for his chances for a ministerial post which has been covered by 11 northerners since 1992.

Geir Pollestad (Centre Party) is a parliamentary representative from Rogaland. PHOTO: Center Party