The Norwegian government this week unveiled a new set of rules governing development of the country's offshore aquaculture sector, which could play an important role in the future growth for the salmon farming industry.

The new rules establish a framework from which to build, Norway Fisheries and Oceans Minister Bjornar Skjaeran said.

"We are now going to start creating a program for the public impact assessments and to put in place regulations that will further detail the conditions on which companies can operate," Skjaeran said.

Despite the updates, many more pieces still need to be put in place, Skjaeran said.

"Above all, it is important to ensure that the new regulations are sustainable and coexist well with other industries," he said.

Projects underway

With an entire new industry being created, the offshore salmon farming industry has multiple stakeholders involved, including companies, NGOs, scientists and governments.

Last year, two of Norway's richest men, salmon giant SalMar's Gustav Witzoe and the founder of industrial giant Aker, Kjell Inge Rokke, entered into partnership to establish the world's first offshore salmon farm.

The company is targeting 150,000 metric tons of offshore salmon production by 2030, a volume that would make it one of the world's largest producers.

The company's offshore farm, Ocean Farm 1, in April was towed to Aker Solution's shipyard in central Norway for upgrades. Following the upgrades, Ocean Farm 1 will be transported back to its original location off the coast of Froya in central Norway in April 2023.

In other parts of the world, the fisheries and aquaculture arm of the US National Oceanic and Atmospheric Agency (NOAA) is moving forward with environmental impact studies for sites in California.

NOAA said earlier this year that it will be seeking public comments to define the scope of the environmental impact statement to be used for 10 areas in the Southern California that could one day be home to offshore aquaculture operations.

Brief facts about the new rules:
  • The King-in-Council must decide which areas can be arranged for aquaculture at sea. The ministry can divide an area into several smaller areas and each segment will have a set limit for maximum permitted biomass (MTB). (The King-in-Council refers to the meetings between the King and the Cabinet where significant decisions are made. They typically meet at the Royal Palace every Friday.)
  • A person/entity can be given an advance agreement which gives it right to apply for the allocation. This agreement is not a prerequisite for establishing a farm.
  • The holder of an advance agreement must submit a proposal for an impact assessment to the Directorate of Fisheries. Guidelines for preparing the program will be given in a separate guide.
  • The Directorate must send the proposal for consultation to the relevant sector authorities.
  • The project-specific impact assessment must be carried out in accordance with the established program and must be submitted for consultation together with an application for a specific location. Guidelines for carrying out the project-specific impact assessment will be given in a separate guide.
  • After carrying out a project-specific impact assessment and being approved by the relevant authorities, an aquaculture permit can be granted to one specific locality. The pre-commitment is then replaced by a permit and the owner will not have any rights relating to the rest of the area. The permit is specified in MTB.
  • The permits are granted with a time limit of 25 years.