The following opinion column is from Gustav Witzoe, CEO and president of SalMar Group.
SalMar and I have great faith in a future where Norwegian aquaculture will use the large Norwegian sea areas in the open sea, outside the current production areas.
However, this enthusiasm will never displace our belief in coastal aquaculture.
It is, and will be, the very foundation for both SalMar and the Norwegian aquaculture industry -- coastal aquaculture that has made Norway the world's leading salmon producer and this will continue to be the case in the future as far as we can see today.
It is today's coastal aquaculture that will be the foundation, and pivotal in whether we will succeed further offshore.
These important points have unfortunately been overshadowed in an enthusiastic report in Intrafish [published in Norwegian on IntraFish.com]triggered by the fact that SalMar has been visited by a delegation of prominent Center Party politicians on tour on the Trondelag coast.
On behalf of SalMar and the company's 1,700 employees, I would like to thank Trygve Slagsvold Vedum, Ole Borten Moe and the rest of the party's delegation who visited our company, which provides many jobs along the Norwegian coast.
It has come to my attention that the report was perceived by some as a little too one-sided in favor of sea-based aquaculture. Let me assure everyone that the dialogue on Froya was more balanced than a few sentences in a report can imply.
Let me first and foremost state that my enthusiasm for offshore aquaculture is not due to a lack of faith in coastal aquaculture.
SalMar invests billions annually in the entire value chain for the production and processing of salmon based on traditional, coastal aquaculture.
Norwegian aquaculture has undergone a formidable development in its 51 years, and will continue to do so in the future. New equipment has been developed, and more exposed areas are starting to be used -- with environmentally sustainable growth as a hallmark.
At the same time, the industry must continue to be a driving force for continuous improvement, not least to meet the environmental and area challenges it faces.
If Norway is to fulfill its ambition of being the world's leading seafood nation, we must also use the enormous Norwegian sea areas in the open sea.
There are still many good locations for producing salmon in the traditional coastal areas. These must be further developed, and more must be used. But there are more and more stakeholders in the same areas, and we will experience greater scarcity of space.
For this reason, it is important for Norwegian aquaculture that there is a development that makes it possible to produce salmon outside the current production areas.
SalMar wants to be central in the development of equipment and modes of operation that make this possible.
The industry and SalMar have a reasonable expectation for a set of regulations that make it possible to apply for production permits also in the open sea, without this affecting the growth opportunities within the current production areas. It has been two and a half years since an inter-ministerial working group presented models for this in its report Offshore Aquaculture - new technology - new opportunities.
The time has now come for the next step.
Technological development in the industry is progressing fast, both in Norway and other countries. It would be a shame if Norway took a back seat in relation to competitor countries where billions are being invested in aquaculture both on land and at sea.
It is all the more important that Norway fully invests in sustainable growth in coastal aquaculture and at the same time opens up for offshore aquaculture.
Both parts are important for Norway's future: Sea and coast go hand in hand.