Norwegian authorities plan to grant new licenses to produce up to 15,000 metric tons of salmon in offshore closed-containment sites at sea, Norway Fisheries and Seafood Minister Odd Emil Ingebrigtsen announced at the Aqua Nor trade fair last week.

Under the new program, similar to the country's successful development license program, which awarded licenses to innovative salmon farming concepts, permits for up to 15,000 metric tons per production site will be granted. Each successful applicant will be allowed a maximum of 10 permits.

The additional production capacity supplements Norway's so-called traffic light system.

It is yet to be decided how the producers will pay for these permits. They could be awarded at auction after a pre-qualification competition or through an innovation competition.

Candidates will score points for projects that go beyond minimum sludge requirements and other environmental criteria, which the ministry will explain in the consultation letter.

Solutions that can help solve challenges with sea lice, escapes and discharges are likely to stand a better chance.

It is unclear whether permits will be time limited, although producers that violate the terms of the permits may be sanctioned or lose their permit as a last resort.

Former Minister of Fisheries Elisabeth Aspaker launched the so-called development permits program in 2015, under which free salmon licenses were given to projects that were to solve several of the environmental and area challenges in the industry.

Interest was enormous, and far greater than politicians had envisioned.

A total of 104 applications were received during the two-year application period from established producers and new entrants from Norway and further afield.

The applications were so numerous and so extensive that the Directorate of Fisheries had to hire a number of new caseworkers (lawyers, engineers and economists) to process them.

Many of the projects were rejected in whole or in part, and most of them appealed the rejections.

Today, four years after the scheme closed for applications, not all applications have been finalized.

So far, 23 projects have been awarded one or more licenses under the old program.

Among them are Salmar projects, which received eight permits for its sea cage; Nordlaks with 21 permits for two sea farms; and Norway Royal Salmon (NRS), which received eight permits for the "Arctic Offshore Farming" cage concept.

While an ordinary salmon license costs close to NOK 150-200 million (€14.5 million-€19.3 million million/$17 million-$22.7 million) at auction, the development permits can be converted to ordinary permits for NOK 10 million (€964,829/$1.1 million) each.