Towards increased production and competitiveness in seafood

Fiskeriminister Per Sandbergs åpningsinnlegg under North Atlantic Seafood forum i Bergen 2. mars.

Dear Ministers, officials and worldwide representatives for the seafood industry.

Welcome to Norway and to the beautiful city of Bergen – the Norwegian sea-food capital.

For Norway, the sea has always been our source of food, survival, welfare and prosperity.

Moreover, this industry is growing even stronger.The export figures for 2015 confirm just how important the Norwegian seafood industry is – and how present it is, all over the world.

Last year the value of our seafood exports, reached an all-time high – almost 74, 5 billion Norwegian kroner (7,6 billion euro).

[Globale utviklingstrekk og norsk sjømatnærings betydning]

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

Our capacity to exploit and manage a wider range of ocean resources is critical for meeting this challenge. Seafood could play a key role in combating hunger and malnutrition worldwide. 

The Norwegian government recognizes the seafood sector to be one of Norway’s most important industries for the future. This is why Norwegian authorities go to great lengths to ensure that our fisheries are sustainable, that our production facilities are clean, and that our seafood remains healthy and safe.

In relation to this, the Norwegian government last year completed two white papers: One on sustainable growth in the aquaculture sector, the other one on our seafood industry and its ability to compete. 

[FoU, bærekraftige bestander og havbruk]

[Bærekraftige bestander]

We must make use of the sea’s current resources. At the same time, we must ensure that future generations can do the same.

With this long-term perspective, we aim for sustainability.

This means that we have to provide the best scientific knowledge possible.  In order to achieve this, marine scientists must work together.  The close cooperation with Russia clearly demonstrates how fruitful collaboration is. Together we manage the world's strongest cod stock – the cod stock from the Barents Sea.

The International Council for Exploration of the Sea – ICES – is the key institution for providing scientific advice and quota recommendations.

Based on the advice from ICES, the Norwegian Institute of Marine Research provides science-based advice to the annual fisheries negotiations between Norway and other parties (the EU, Russia, the Faroe Islands and Greenland) and to the national management process.

We aim to reach an agreement with the North Atlantic coastal states for stocks we share.  An agreement would be a win-win situation. However, the agreements must be balanced and take all parties legitimate interests into account.

[Norwegian aquaculture developments]

We are optimistic for the aquaculture sector. Salmon farming has been growing for decades. Still, scientists say that an increase from today’s 1, 3 million tons to 5 million tons in 2050 could be possible.

Norway aims to produce more food and continue to expand our knowledge on how to sustainably utilize our ocean resources. 

We have proposed a new system that will keep the aquaculture industry's environmental footprint within acceptable limits.  

The Norwegian Parliament agrees with the Government on the main elements of our proposal, and I am therefore laying a foundation for growth based on the new system from 2017.

I have been very clear on one condition for growth: the impact on the environment will determine future growth in the salmon farming industry. 

We must use the sea as farmers and not only as hunters. Some say that is what civilization is all about. Farming replacing hunting.

[Research and innovation]

International cooperation in research and innovation plays a key role in securing the ocean’s ability to produce safe and healthy seafood, and developing blue growth.

Industrial participation is important if we are to strengthen the impact and further development of these research fields.

Norway is taking part in the European Research and

Innovation program, Horizon 2020. Horizon 2020 is the world's largest research program and our most important platform for international research and collective innovation.

Marine research and blue growth have a natural part in this program.

Industry plays a key role if Norway and Europe are to succeed in the field of blue research and innovation. It is therefore critical that companies strengthen their efforts and participate actively in research and partner on innovation in Europe – as well as with other countries around the world.

[Overordnet om utfordringer, langtidsplan, masterplan og budsjett]

The potential for growth and value creation in the marine sector is significant.

In the Government's long-term plan for research and education, we commit to scale up allocations to research and higher education regarding seas and oceans.

The Norwegian government has also launched a marine research plan to follow up specific areas where we need more knowledge.

We have an ingredient industry that would like to use the left overs from marine raw material production. Even though we currently use a lot of the remaining raw material, we have room to increase the utilization rate.

The increased use of the remaining marine raw materials can increase both the value of the fish and the entire seafood industry.

[Biomarine industry]

If there is one thing I have learnt about the seafood industry, it is that opportunities from the sea are great.

Today modern biotechnology can produce food and medicine from what was previously tossed overboard as waste. A collaboration between the research field and the industry will only become more important. The new possibilities from the Biomarine industry is something Norway wishes to develop further.

[Markedsadgang]

Norway is among the world’s top seafood exporters.

Every single day, about 36 million Norwegian seafood meals are consumed in more than 140 foreign markets.

Our ambition is to ensure that consumers all over the world can enjoy and benefit from Norway’s sustainable marine resources.

Market access for seafood is therefore a top priority.

We work to improve market access in the World Trade Organization, through the free-trade network of EFTA and in negotiations with the European Union.

Today, trade policy is driven forward by new regional free trade agreements outside the WTO. I am thinking of the Trans Pacific Partnership Agreement (TPP), and negotiations between the EU and the US on a transatlantic trade and investment partnership (TTIP).

These agreements give Norway and the Norwegian seafood industry both opportunities and challenges. When in place, these agreements could mean that some of our competitors get better access to for instance Japan and the EU.

In order to face this challenge, we are working to complete the ongoing EFTA negotiations with Vietnam, Malaysia and the Philippines. Norway also aims to our trade relations with, among others, Australia, Mercosurand ASEAN.

But, in this picture, the EU-market is still our main market. Market access to the EU is not satisfactory – that is a well-known fact.

Free trade with seafood is the government's objective in all free trade agreements. We have the same objective in the EU.

We managed to secure improved market access for herring – and mackerel products in the agreement on EEA financial contributions last summer. The agreement will formally come into place this year and will last until 2021.

We will continue to push for better market access in the EU – but this is a complex issue. Opposition in the EU to grant Norway better market access is clear and present – especially if they do not get something back.

[Avslutning]

Norway is not only an exporter of seafood. We also share our knowledge and experience with other countries. We support the effort on sustainable management of marine resources globally.

Over time, our national policy has been adapted and improved based on new knowledge.

The government and scientists from Norway have been involved in development aid related to fisheries since the 1950s. 

Norway has longstanding collaboration with Mozambique, Namibia and Vietnam. 

I strongly believe that our involvement internationally will contribute to develop sustainable marine industries and improve food security in developing countries.

So far, we have only used a relatively 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 this way, seafood can play an important role in solving the challenge of food security.

[Concluding remarks]

Finally, I am sure the conference will provide fruitful discussions.

I wish you a pleasant stay in Bergen.

Thank you for your attention!

                                                        ****