The number of escape incidents and escaped salmon from Norwegian fish farms has been significantly reduced in 2020, after 2019 was marked by 289,570 escaped fish, an almost doubling of numbers since 2018.

So far this year, the number of fish escaped has dropped dramatically to just 19,788 salmon, according to DNB Market's weekly report on the salmon market.

In October there were 36 escape incidents in the Norwegian salmon farming industry compared with 53 in 2019.

The escape figures presented in the report are taken from the Norwegian Directorate of Fisheries, which states that the figures may be higher than those listed. That's because not all salmon escapes are reported by companies.

Seafood companies have taken note

Robert Eriksson, CEO of the Norwegian industry association Sjomatbedriftene, has noticed the development.

Robert Eriksson, CEO of the Norwegian industry association Sjomatbedriftene. Photo: Anders Furuset

"It has been declining for a long time compared with 10 years ago," he said of the downward trend, noting that 2019 was somewhat of an anomaly. "Last year, there was a single escape with about 219,000 escaped fish from a smolt plant, which resulted in very high escape rates overall."

"It is gratifying that the numbers are reduced, but they have to go down even further," Eriksson told IntraFish. "An escaped farmed salmon is one escaped farmed salmon too much. We need even more competence when we carry out work operations, since it is mostly when escapes occur. We must have a greater focus on escapes, from the top of the boardroom, all the way down to the edge of the cage."

Seafood Norway put the issue high on the agenda

Geir Ove Ystmark, CEO of Seafood Norway, is also pleased with this year's low escape rates.

Geir Ove Ystmark, CEO of Seafood Norway. Photo: Bent-Are Jensen

"The number and level of escapes has been declining over several years and the industry's efforts are yielding results," he said.

He adds that escape security is something Seafood Norway has focused on for more than 10 years, over which time the industry organization has held courses with a significant number of players in the industry.

"We have been active in processes where standards are developed for the aquaculture industry," he explained. "It is high on the agenda among stewards at our member companies. We have made a significant effort to contribute to better escape security.

"Regardless of meetings with the authorities, we will have this high on the agenda for some time," he said.