Norway's fisheries and aquaculture minister Bjørnar Skjæran, fourth from left, with members of the committee that produced the report.

Norway considers ending volume reduction from red ‘traffic light’

Measure is among many suggested in government-commissioned report on fish farming


Changes to Norway’s “traffic light system” for salmon farming expansion are suggested in a report into Norway’s aquaculture permitting system.

Other suggested measures include introducing a tax on the number of salmon lice that exceed the limit.

The “Comprehensive management of aquaculture for sustainable value creation” report was commissioned by the Conservative government of Erna Solberg in 2021, and continued by the Labour Party/Centre Party government of current prime minister Jonas Gahr Støre, which gained power shortly afterwards.

The committee formed to write the report today handed it over to the country’s fisheries and aquaculture minister Bjørnar Skjæran.

Thorough review

“The committee has carried out a thorough review of the permit system in the farming industry, and their proposals will be important for the government’s further work to create growth in a predictable, controlled and sustainable way,” said Skjæran.

“The investigation will now be sent for consultation (until January 2, 2024), and together with input from the consultation round, I will assess the proposals in more detail.”

Recommendations in the report include alterations to Norway’s traffic light system for deciding on increased (green), maintained (yellow), or reduced (red) farming volume based on the perceived impact of lice on wild salmon in production areas.

The system has several elements which, in the committee’s assessment, work well. But it proposes removing reductions in production for areas designated red traffic and increases for areas that have a green light.

'Fire breaks'

Other recommendations include:

  • Better spatial planning for aquaculture and better site structure.
  • State authorities should take over greater parts of the responsibility and authority to prepare and adopt spatial plans for the sea areas.
  • The concept of production areas (Norway currently has 13 running the length of the west coast) should be maintained, with “fire breaks” between them to minimise the spread of infection. Aquaculture facilities that do not affect biosecurity should still be able to be located in these buffer zones.
  • Aquaculture permits should consist of site and company permits.
  • Permits should be differentiated for different species, stages of production and geographical areas.
  • Permits for special purposes and with special operating conditions should generally be avoided.

“Special permits are an expensive and poorly transparent means of action and have in several cases been shown not to achieve sufficient targets,” states the report. “The committee proposes to discontinue permits for display purposes, teaching purposes and fish parks.”

Predictable mechanisms

The report also wants predictable and efficient mechanisms for granting, changing, time-limiting, transferring, renting and registering aquaculture permits.

“As a general rule, company permits should be awarded by auction, while location permits should be awarded upon application and without remuneration. All aquaculture permits should be granted by state authorities,” the committee writes.

It adds: “The committee believes in principle that both new and existing company licenses should be time-limited. Nevertheless, a time limit should not be introduced on company licenses for salmon, trout and rainbow trout, which is an aquaculture industry with mature value chains and ground rent taxation.”

Location permits

The report also says that a ban on the transfer of location permits should be investigated, and that both operation and growth in the aquaculture industry must be regulated to ensure sustainability.

The report’s authors also suggest that in principle, company licences should be time-limited and licence capacity that expires should be continuously re-allocated, primarily through auction.

But it adds that should not be a time limit on company licences for salmon, trout and rainbow trout, which is an aquaculture industry with mature value chains and ground rent taxation.