Exemption to import live American lobster

The Norwegian Ministry of Climate and Environment grants the firm Ph. Thorstensen an exemption to import live American lobster. The permit is given with strict conditions to prevent the release of live lobsters into the sea.

American lobster (Homarus americanus) in New foundland, Canada. Credit: Derek Keats, Wikimedia commons

Prohibition on import

The Norwegian Regulations on alien organisms prohibit the import of live American lobster to Norway because they pose an ecological risk to the population of the European lobster. However, it is possible to make exemptions from the prohibition if important considerations in the public interest so require, provided that this is not contrary to the purpose of the regulations. An exemption is granted because the firm has implemented necessary measures resulting in a very low risk of release of live American lobster into the sea. Amongst other measures, the firm´s holding facilities are enclosed, so that escape of lobsters is not possible, and all live American lobsters are boiled and therefore dead before leaving the firm´s facilities.

The firm Ph. Thorstensen is the only large-scale importer of live American lobster to Norway. The Norwegian Environment Agency did not grant the firm an exemption to import live American lobster because the Agency considered that the condition concerning important considerations of the public interest was not fulfilled. The firm appealed the decision, which has now been decided by the Ministry of Climate and Environment.

Live American lobsters pose a severe high risk to Norwegian nature. The American lobster can mate with European lobster, which can lead to a genetic degradation of the European lobster, which in turn could lead to further decreases in an historically low population of the European lobster in Norway. American lobsters can also potentially outcompete European lobsters when it comes to habitats and food. Furthermore, they can spread diseases and parasites, which in a worst case scenario could be deadly for the European lobster. So far, 35 American lobsters have been found in the wild in Norway. Four of these were females with hybrid eggs.

Due to the strict conditions, The Ministry of Climate and Environment has considered that the American lobster can be imported with low ecological risk. It is therefore neither necessary nor professionally advisable need to refuse an exemption.

– It is important to avoid harmful effects to Norwegian nature by alien organisms. At the same time, regulations must be proportional and practiced in a reasonable way. I will therefore consider making clarifications to the provision on exemptions, says the Minister of Climate and Environment Vidar Helgesen.

Conditions which have to be fulfilled

An exemption from the ban on import is given on condition that the firm implements strict measures to prevent the release of live lobster through the activities of the firm:

  • No unauthorized persons shall have access to the lobsters during any temporary storage or transport.
  • The number/amount of live American lobsters shall be registered so that any disappearance of live lobsters is discovered in all parts of the supply chain.
  • After arrival at the firm´s facilities, live American lobster shall only be stored in closed facilities where escape of lobsters is not possible. No unauthorized persons shall have access to the facilities.
  • Live American lobsters shall be held in separate tanks apart from European lobsters and other species.
  • All live American lobsters shall be boiled or in other ways processed so that they without doubt are dead before leaving the firm´s facilities.

The Ministry also refers to the requirements regarding due care in the Regulations relating to alien organisms, the duty to take measures and provide notification, the requirements relating to information to employees, the requirements relating to storage and packaging during transport, the requirements relating to the treatment of water, the requirements related to the labelling of consignments and the duty to maintain an internal control system.

The exemption is given for two years, with the possibility of extension. There are no limitations on the scope of the import.

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