Arctic Frontiers

Global food security and the Northern Oceans

Excellences, organizers, friends and colleagues. 

It is an honor for me to be here today, as the newly appointed minister of Fisheries in the Norwegian Government.

I am excited to address today's topic. This conference annually attracts more than 1300 participants from 29 countries, both arctic and non- arctic. This only shows that there is a great interest for The Arctic.

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We live in a world in dramatic change. Whilst our climate is shifting, world population is increasing by the day. By 2050, there will be 9 billion people on Earth. Moreover, according to the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), food demand will increase by a staggering 60 percent.

Feeding a growing world population is one of the major challenges facing the global community today.

As most of you already know, the oceans cover 70 percent of the world's surface, but less than 5 percent of the global food production derives from the sea. It seems that resources from the sea, if managed properly, could be crucial to solving the problem of feeding a growing world population!

The UN has repeatedly recognized the importance of fisheries and aquaculture to food-security; income and wealth; and poverty reduction - for present and future generations.

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We live in a world in constant development. As I see it, there are two important trends that will have a tremendous impact on the industry in the future.
The first trend is what has been called "The fourth industrial revolution". The name refers to how new technology fundamentally changes the way we live and work. We do not yet know just how it all will unfold, but we know that the impact will be huge. To illustrate the significance of this trend, it was one of the topics on the agenda of the World Economic Forum recently held in Davos.

The second trend is what is known as the Green shift.  This shift requires a change towards products and services that do not affect the environment negatively.

An important question is how these trends will affect the High North. I hope that Arctic Frontiers can serve as a platform to exchange views and opinions on these developments.

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Norway manages sea areas six times the size of our main land. Together with our long coastline, this makes our country well-suited for fisheries and aquaculture. It is therefore no wonder that Norway is one of the world's largest exporters of seafood today. Our seafood exports in 2015 reached 7,6 billion euro (74,5 mrd. NOK). This is an increase of 8,4 percent from 2014.

However, it is important to realize that even though the living resources from the sea are renewable, they are not limitless. Therefore managing the oceans requires a commitment to long-term thinking.

The Norwegian fishing industry would not be where it is today without long term and strategic efforts through international cooperation, regulations, continuous research and innovation.

Good fisheries management is about always adapting to changing conditions. About balancing environmental, social and economic concerns. We must manage our resources to the benefit of future generations.

This very concept is at the center of fisheries management. We have proven that, through applying appropriate management measures, a declining trend in a fish stock can be reversed from downwards to upwards. One example is the Northeast- Arctic cod that today is at a historically high level.

Taking measures against illegal fishing is also part of good fisheries management. Today, there is very little illegal fishing in Norwegian waters. This was accomplished through non-stop efforts and crucial contribution from the government, the industry and the academic society.

Good fisheries management depends not only on national regulations. Successful international cooperation is also of great importance to succeed in fisheries management.

Norway shares more than 90 % of our fish stocks with other countries. Consequently, Norway takes part in several bilateral and multilateral agreements, as well as agreements within the regional fisheries management organizations.

In the High North, our fish stocks are shared with Russia. Through a Joint Norwegian Russian Fisheries Commission, Norway and Russia have managed to agree on an efficient fisheries management. Since 1972, quotas from shared stocks have been allocated between Norway, Russia and third countries through annual negotiations. This cooperation has continued without intermission. This only accents the importance of fisheries.

The Arctic Oceans have historically been important for the food supply in Norway, Europe and globally, and remain so to this day.

The Arctic Oceans are home to the Northeast- Arctic cod, the single most important species in the Norwegian fisheries. However, other species will gain increased importance in the future. It is crucial that we make use of our experience in fisheries management as new species become more valuable. This is the only way to ensure a responsible use of resources that are needed in the future.

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During the last year, we have experienced a great fall in the oil price, with huge consequences for the petroleum sector – and our economy. This illustrates the necessity for a more diverse industry. In the near future aquaculture can serve as a potential pillar in the Norwegian economy.  

Scientists say that an increase in aquaculture from today’s roughly 1,2 million tons to 5 million tons in 2050 could be achievable.

This is great news!

The Norwegian government is optimistic for the aquaculture sector, and wants to make sure that the industry reached its potential.
The cold, clear waters in the arctic are perfect conditions for aquaculture of salmon and trout. There is a great potential for further growth in aquaculture, but this has to happen within the frame of an acceptable environmental footprint.

From a Norwegian perspective, we are in the process of implementing a new system for further growth in the Norwegian aquaculture industry. It is a "traffic light system" where environmental impact is the determining factor for future growth in the salmon farming industry

We will:

-          Divide the coast into production areas and use sea lice impact on wild stocks as the indicator when determining whether a production area is ready for growth or not.

-          Consider capacity increases every other year, based on what the indicator system is telling us.

-          If the indicator in a production area is green, it means capacity could be increased. Yellow means capacity could be unchanged, while red means capacity could be reduced.

This system will provide the aquaculture industry with incentives to solve the environmental challenges it is now facing, which is a condition for future growth.

We have also recently opened up for allocating licenses to innovation projects. This gives an incentive to develop and commercialize new, more environmentally sustainable technology. Thus, paving the way for future growth. In addition, it can give new business opportunities to producers of aquaculture equipment. This could become an even more important industry, where knowledge from other sectors, like petroleum and maritime sectors, can be applied.

To be able to do this we need to expand our knowledge and technology. That is why research is a priority.

As we are now facing a shift from a petroleum based- to a knowledge- based economy, we must create new knowledge- based jobs and contribute to the necessary shift in the economy by making research a priority.

Marine research can contribute to solving social challenges and further growth by developing existing and new marine resources. The potential for growth and value creation in the marine sector is significant.

Research results, including in the fields of nutrition, bio-technology and process technology, have opened doors for advanced industrial exploitation of marine raw materials. However, more research is needed to ensure even better utilization of these marine raw materials.

For example, we need to find ways to use the whole fish and stop wasting the parts we do not eat. This can be done by processing marine by- products.

In order to meet social challenges through more efficient production and processing of biomass, Norway is preparing a national strategy in the field of bioeconomy.

The Arctic is central in the research and development based on biotechnology and bioprospecting because of the great access to unique arctic marine organisms.

The climate changes we are witnessing are causing the ice in the Arctic Ocean to melt, and new possibilities but also challenges will occur.

The research communities in the arctic possess a unique knowledge necessary to tackle the challenges and to take advantage of the possibilities.

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Ladies and Gentlemen,

Fisheries in the Arctic Oceans have always been important for the food supply in Norway, Europe and globally. Its importance is only increasing with time.

The future prospects of the aquaculture industry in this area are great. It is our responsibility to make sure that these opportunities and resources are managed in the best possible way - for both the oceans – and for future generations.

Fish and seafood represent viable solutions to the future globalchallenge of food scarcity.

Therefore, I am glad to see that our nations are engaged in the safeguarding of sustainable use of resources in the Arctic.

What's more, we realize that collaboration and sharing of insights are vital in order for the very fragile ecological systems in the High North to survive.

Thank you for your attention!