‘You’re gonna need a bigger boat’

Editorial
1812

Large steel constructions are the winners in the Norwegian system for development licenses.

A seemingly dazed police chief Martin Brody (played by Roy Scheider) utters his classic movie quote – all the while with cigarette still in place – after having had his first encounter with the 25-foot long star of “Jaws”. Steven Spielberg’s thriller movie from 1975, clearly inspired by Henrik Ibsen’s “An Enemy of the People”, celebrates its 42nd anniversary this year.

In “An Enemy of the People” the public baths in a small holiday resort have become highly contaminated; in “Jaws” the beaches are preyed upon by a shark. In both instances, the local authorities attempt to conceal the truth in an effort to save profits they earn from the baths/holiday season.

Environmental concern
The message of the film, and not least Ibsen’s original drama, is still just as relevant today.

Determination to control pollution, respect for the environment, are the drivers for the Norwegian government’s new development licenses for salmon. The lice problem in particular is hampering further growth in this country’s highly profitable aquaculture industry. Enhanced salmon revenue, but also jobs, are undoubtedly on the agenda of PM Erna Holberg’s government – not least after the ructions caused by the oil industry this last eighteen months.

The government is opting for a carrot rather than a stick to develop the industry, and simultaneously stimulate innovation.

So far more than 50 aquaculture companies have applied for development licenses. Five have succeeded in obtaining them. All have based their concepts on a raft or vessel. The winners are SalMar, borrowing from offshore technology for its ocean farm construction, while Inge Berg and Nordlaks are following Martin Brody’s request for a bigger boat – with the 430-meter long marine farming ship, christened the “Havfarm” (Ocean Farm).

Closed containment construction
It’s worth noting that none of them have chosen the solution that the overwhelming majority of opponents of the present mode of operation have as their first choice, namely closed containment constructions. Not least in social media, it would appear that anyone with the slightest knowledge about the marine farming industry has long ago solved any problem the industry has by shutting the salmon inside.

The drawback over the last five decades with exactly this form of production has been high production costs and low profitability. Closed containment fish farms, in the sea and on land have, since the end of the sixties, struggled to compete with open farm set-ups.

Producers are instead opting for larger vessels – and heading further out to sea.

Financing
These are the companies that have the wherewithal and sit on the actual investment decisions and capabilities. They are willing to go far. On Nordlaks and SalMar’s part they are willing to invest heavily and have the necessary financing in place.

The Norwegian government has opted to not quantify the number of licenses that are planned for issue. Partly in order to secure room to manoeuvre, and possibly also to appeal to both the marine farming industry and its opponents. Just how many development licenses are eventually awarded out of a number that could make a difference, and play a role in balancing the market for salmon, remains to be seen.