An Industry Pioneer: How Norway Became a Leader in Responsible Salmon Farming

An Industry Pioneer: How Norway Became a Leader in Responsible Salmon Farming

For centuries, Norwegian fishermen have lived in harmony with the sea, using their hard-earned skills and know-how to evolve with each generation. See how their cultural passion laid the foundation for today’s superior fish farming.

The 35,000 square miles of pristine ocean offer a vast resource of marine biodiversity. In fact, marine scientists see the Norwegian and Barents seas as one of Europe´s best-preserved marine ecosystems. Along the coast, strong currents and temperature changes create a phenomenon called upwelling. In these areas, cold water sinks to the bottom while the warmer nutrient-rich water rises to the surface in a continuous cycle. This creates optimal conditions for aquaculture since the fish farms provide protection from bad weather while the active currents ensure a continual replenishment of water into and underneath the fish pens.

The 35,000 square miles of pristine ocean offer a vast resource of marine biodiversity.
Seafood has always been a way of life in Norway. For centuries, Norwegian fishermen have lived in harmony with the sea, with their skills and know-how continuing to evolve with each generation. The passion and knowledge of the fishermen laid the foundation for ocean farming—an innovative new industry that would leverage the immense ocean and rugged coastline to develop a sustainable food source.

While animals like cattle, pigs and poultry have been domesticated and raised for food for thousands of years, domesticating salmon was a relatively new concept until 1970, when the first documented salmon farm was built on the island of Hitra in Norway. Norwegian Salmon farmers soon learned there was a market for salmon that could be produced independently of seasonal variations, which limited traditional fisheries.

By working with the vast resources of the sea in a sustainable and environmentally conscious way, Norwegian aquaculture provides a reliable food source for the world’s growing population. Many people don’t realize that Atlantic salmon are native to Norway’s cold, clear waters. The salmon that were sourced for Norway’s first fish farm came from Norwegian rivers and were brought to the ocean to breed. This means that Norwegian farmed salmon have the same genetics as wild salmon, but due to their environment and the fact they don’t have to forage for food, the farmed salmon are able to grow faster, mature later and resist disease better.

Today, Norway’s aquaculture industry ranks among the world’s leading programs. Their secret? Norway has depended on a combination of strict health regulations, close safety monitoring and continuous work to develop its aquaculture industry.

The Salmon Lifecycle Illustration
The Salmon Lifecycle

Combining hard-earned experience and advanced technology, the industry is able to monitor and promote healthy fish growth and food safety at every step:

The Salmon Lifecycle Illustration 2
Sustainable Farming Practices

When it comes to feeding, Norway’s industry experts know exactly what salmon need to grow strong and healthy. Norwegian Salmon are fed an all-natural diet composed of 70 percent plant-based ingredients and 30 percent marine raw materials like fishmeal and fish oil, plus vitamins, minerals and antioxidants, guaranteeing an even better-tasting fish harvested with sustainability and health in mind.

Every aspect of the salmon’s development is closely monitored by technologically advanced systems that deliver information to the farmers and their veterinarians, including when the salmon are full so the feeding device can be shut down. In order to keep the ecosystem in balance and to protect the cold, clean waters in which Norwegian Salmon naturally thrive, any site used for salmon farming has to rest before a new farming cycle can begin. During this time, the cold, clear waters wash away excess waste.

To prevent overcrowding, Norwegian law requires that salmon make up less than 2.5 percent of the pen’s volume, so that each pen is made up of 97.5 percent water to allow for maximum comfort and a healthy growth cycle.

Sustainable Farming Practices

Scientists and industry experts agree that wild fish alone cannot sustain the world’s fast-growing population. Overfishing has caused many of our wild seafood stocks to diminish. In fact, the World Wildlife Fund (WWF) claims more than 85 percent of the world's fisheries have been pushed to or beyond their biological limits.

Total Food ProductionIn order to continue to feed the world’s growing population, predicted to exceed 9.3 billion people by 2050, we will have to look past traditional fisheries and livestock. An incredible 17 percent of the protein people eat already comes from the sea, and demand is set to rise by 40 percent by 2050. If this happens, we will need a sustainable, reliable protein source for the planet. Only 2 percent of what we eat comes from the ocean, yet 70 percent of Earth's surface is water. Therefore, responsible aquaculture will need to be embraced as a sustainable solution to help feed the growing population.

Norway’s deep respect for nature and its cultural pride in being the best is what fuels the Norwegian seafood industry’s continued efforts to improve its already strict standards of excellence and safety applied to raising ocean-farmed salmon. Everyday, more than 12 million seafood meals originating from Norwegian aquaculture are served internationally. Therefore, Norway understands the importance of safeguarding the environment and fish stocks, not only to continue to support their local community and culture, but also to be a sustainable industry that provides meals worldwide for generations to come.