NORWAY’S fish farmers have spent tens of billions of kroners at auction buying new salmon production licences as a prelude to a major expansion of the industry.
The result is that 160 coastal communities will received at least NOK 2 billion (almost £200 million) in development funding.
The Oslo government decreed two years ago that those communities where fish farms are based should benefit directly from any new growth plans through a dedicated Aquaculture Fund, from which money is distributed every September.
The government also introduced a traffic light system to decide which areas should be the focus of any expansion.
The auction was held in Bergen over three days last week and interest was intense. Licences capable of producing 15,000 tonnes were up for auction and two thirds of that allocation was snapped up in under two days.
As expected, it was the larger farming companies which made most of the running. For example, Marine Harvest shelled out well over NOK 247 million to buy licences capable of producing 2,960 tonnes.
Norway Royal Salmon and Cermaq spent at least NOK 115 million and NOK 200 million respectively.
SalMar, which has been growing at a remarkable pace, put up NOK 214 million for 1,315 new production licences.
But one of the biggest spenders was the relatively small family firm of Lovundlak, which paid NOK 466 million to buy 1,850 tonnes of potential production in the Helgeland and Bodø area.
Company chief Jacob Palmer Meland said it was good to know that a large part of the money invested would go to those communities where farming will take place. Lovundlak, he added, had many skilled staff who were capable of handling the new growth.
Trade minister Roy Angelvik said he was pleased that salmon farmers were showing such faith in their industry by spending a large amount of money to develop their businesses.
The auction was also attended by Norway’s fisheries minister Per Sandberg, who expressed similar delight at the outcome.
‘The government will facilitate growth in the aquaculture industry,’ he said. ‘We are now conducting an auction of new salmon permits which will strengthen the economy of our fishing communities and provide more jobs.’