Norwegian Seafood and Sustainability

”Shared agenda”- London

Dear ambassador, distinguished guests, ladies and gentlemen.

It is a pleasure for to be here at this seminar in one of the key markets for Norwegian seafood. Norway and the UK have longstanding traditions of seafood trade.

Today, the UK is a particularly important market for haddock as well as cod. This is of course due to cod and haddock being the two most popular types of fish used for one of the most beloved of plates here in Britain: fish and chips. Yesterday there was the celebration of this icon of the British kitchen. I congratulate the winners of the 26h edition of the National Fish & Chips Awards!

As Norway’s Minister of Fisheries, I take pride in talking about the enormous potential that lies in the oceans. Today, nearly all the food we eat comes from agriculture (98 percent according to figures from the FAO). At the same time we know that the world’s population is growing rapidly. In 2050 the Earth will be inhabited by 9 billion people. According to the FAO, this means that the current food production must increase by 70 percent.

So far, we have only used a relative small share of our marine resources for food production. I am therefore glad to see more and more advocates for the opportunities of the oceans. 

In the final declaration of the RIO+ 20 meeting,  marine resources was for the very first time pointed out as an important and vital resource for future food production. With scarcity of fresh water and land resources, the oceans must play a bigger part in providing enough food and energy for a growing world population.

When we harvest from the seas, there also rests upon us an important responsibility to manage our marine resources in an eternal perspective. We cannot ignore that some resources are subject to pressure and over-exploitation. Another dimension is climate change, which will also affect the marine production capability.

To succeed, we must act in harmony with nature.

We must make use of the resources today while at the same time ensuring that future generations can do the same.

In our work, we must listen carefully to scientific advice and implement this knowledge in practice. And it is essential that governments, research institutions and the seafood industry work together.

I am not alone in believing that we are only at the start when it comes to value creation from our oceans. In Norway, a group of scientists have assessed the potential for wealth creation in the Norwegian seafood industry in terms of turnover. Their report illustrates that the outlook is very promising. In 2010, the marine turnover in the Norwegian seafood sector was 10 billion pounds.

They hav estimated that by 2050 this number will increase by six times – to over 60 billion pounds. This confirms that the seafood industry is an industry for the future.

In order to realize this potential, we must acknowledge that the use of marine resources is not limited merely to the catch of fish. What make up the seafood industry is the combination of knowledge, experience, expertise and technological solutions.

The modern seafood sector is indeed a sector built on research, innovation and technological solutions. Research gives us the ideas and the knowledge we need for the days to come. And the suppliers of technology contribute to innovation and profitability.

Technology is also vital to ensure sustainability. Better science, process innovation and development of equipment and gear are all elements that contribute to improved fishing practices, smarter utilization of the raw material and better management. This is essential in order to enable the seafood sector to become an even stronger force in global food production.

Norway is blessed with natural resources. Our industrial development is based on hydropower, oil and gas, and living marine resources. Over the last 40 years, the Norwegian fisheries and aquaculture industry has achieved great progress.

The development has been remarkable. In cooperation with our neighbors – the European Union and Russia – we have developed robust management regimes. With a long-term perspective we have aimed for sustainability – and not without setbacks and challenges. While securing the stocks and the ecosystems, we have also expanded the markets and increased aquaculture production from zero to more than 1,3 million metric tons in 2013.

Following two years of declining seafood exports, 2013 showed strong growth and a new export record was set, with the value of seafood exports totaling 6,1 billion pounds in 2013. This is 17 percent more than in 2012.

This development would not be possible without help from nature itself, but there is ample evidence to support the need for good management.

We think the cod from the Barents Sea is a good example. We currently enjoy the strongest spawning stock biomass of cod that has ever been observed in the Barents. Many factors may impact on the productivity of ecosystems and stock development. But we are certain that responsible management is a necessary element in order to rebuild fish stocks and secure high long-term yields. 

The Norwegian experience after almost 50 years of close cooperation – in this case with Russia – is that: - First; it is absolutely necessary that marine scientists cooperate and trust each other.

- Second; it is necessary to agree on the allocation key. Without agreement on allocation, sustainable management measures are much harder to achieve. Unfortunately, this is the current situation when it comes to for instance mackerel.

And Third; it is important to set and enforce moderate fishing levels and quotas – and the fishing capacity must be adapted to the available resources.

Another challenge is discards. In Norway, a discard ban was established in 1987, and we have spent a lot of resources and efforts to adjust the fishing practices of Norwegian vessels. The foundation for this policy is quite simply that throwing dead fish over board doesn’t make sense.

It is a waste of valuable resources, and undermines the need for precise information about catch levels.

Let me underline that a ban on discards alone is not enough. It has to be part of a larger policy mix where regulations are aimed at the fishing operation itself. We have set limits on bycatches and intermixture of juveniles, and a requirement to change fishing ground if the set limits are exceeded. In the Barents Sea we have since 1984,had a system of Real time closure of fishing grounds in place . Also some juvenile areas are closed permanently in addition to seasonal closures.

Other measures are minimum allowed mesh sizes, i for the landing of accidental “illegal” bycatches and the mandatory use of selective gear technology.

The main objective is to promote a harvest pattern where recruits and undersized fish are protected, and where unwanted by-catch is minimized.

There is probably no perfect system, and we still develop our discard policy. We think a workable system is better than a bad system.

I must say that the newly adopted common fisheries policies of the European Union are both important and encouraging, and I am especially satisfied with the introduction of a ban on discards. We warmly welcome this, as the reduction of discards is the most pressing issue for our joint management efforts. 

Every year, thousands of tons of seafood – equivalent to 1,8 millions of seafood meals each day – finds its way from Norway to dinner plates here in the UK.

Nonetheless, we can offer you even more!

I hope you all enjoy the taste of your fish and chips knowing that it was harvested sustainably from the cold and fresh waters of Norway.

Thank you for your attention.