British Columbia should look to Norway

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Odd Grydeland

There is an election brewing in Canada, and some candidates of different political parties are trying to capitalize on the publicity afforded to extreme environmental groups with a predetermined stance against ocean based aquaculture. In the region of Northern Vancouver Island, where salmon farming provides the most number of jobs and economic activity of any industry, the federal New Democratic Party, the Green Party and the Liberal Party all campaign on a platform that eventually would shut down the industry as it is known today. The parties’ political insistence on an industrial change to some form of “closed containment” fish farming technology just doesn’t make sense. Why not? Take a look at Norway and British Columbia;

  • General:
    • Norway; Coastline similar to that of B.C.
    • Population- Norway: 4.9 million, B.C.: 4.4 million
    • Unemployment- Norway: 3.2%, B.C. : 8.1% (March, 2011)
    • Education: Norway: Free Canada: Tuitions
  • Aquaculture:
    • Number of salmon (& ocean trout) farm sites: Norway: 1,040 (Jan ’09)- approximately ten times the number in B.C.
    • Production of farmed salmon & trout in Norway- 2010: Over one million tonnes. B.C.; Less than 90,000 tonnes
    • Norway revenues from aquaculture- 2010; ~CAD$ 7billion, of which ~CAD$ 6.1 billion is from exports. B.C. produced some 85,000 tonnes of cultured seafood in 2009, most of which (~76.300 tonnes) was farmed salmon at a value of ~CAD$  418.5 million.
    • Current Norwegian prices of about NOK 40 per kilo is approximately twice that of the production cost
    • Norway- Percentage of coastal areas used for aquaculture: ~0.6%
  • Fishing: Despite predictions by extreme environmentalists that fish farming would lead to the ultimate demise of wild fish resources, Norwegian records suggest the opposite;
    • Norway is the second largest exporter of seafood products in the world- and half of the products come from aquaculture
    • 2.7 million tonnes of seafood exported in 2010.
    • Norway is now (April, 2011) seeing its best season of cod fishing since salmon farming started some ~40 years ago
    • Some 945,000 tonnes of herring and mackerel is harvested each year- mostly for human consumption
    • The biomass of pelagic fishes in the North Atlantic Ocean has increased from about 6 million tonnes in 1985 to approximately 23 million tonnes in 2009. For “White fish”, the numbers are ~400,000 tonnes in 1985 and ~2.1 million tonnes in 2009.

For the second year in a row, Norway tops the rankings of the Prosperity Index, which measures how a country’s economic fundamentals, health, freedom, governance, safety, education, entrepreneurial opportunity and social capital influence the economic growth and happiness of its citizens. This year, Canada ranks seventh. And by the way- Norway has a booming off-shore oil & gas industry that this year is expected to contribute some CAD$ 51 billion to government coffers.