On the Strategic Thinking and Practice of Norwegian Fishery Policies

On the Strategic Thinking and Practice of Norwegian Fishery Policies

Minju Yang(China Productivity Center Agriculture Innovation Department)

Norway is the fourth largest exporter of aquacultural products. Atlantic salmon is the most important product, accounting for over 80% of the aquaculture production of Norway and over 50% of the whole world. In 2018, Norway exported about NOK 99 billion worth of aquatic products.

Besides the unique natural environment for fishery, Norway's aquaculture industry is based on strict management systems of sustainable development, animal welfare, and food safety, as well as the practitioners' compliance with the policies. The Norwegian government, with the goal of maintaining the leading position in international aquaculture production and export, has played a pivotal role in the management systems, marketing, innovative technology assistance, and personnel training.

In 2017, the government released its marine strategies in the "Blue Opportunities", in which three major goals were revealed, namely "green shipping for lower carbon emissions", "sustainable utilization of marine resources", and "intelligent digital applications" to further promote the development and management of the marine industry on the bases of sustainability. These goals are feasible only in countries like Norway, which values ​​the environment and humanistic education. This article introduces the fishery strategies of Norway as a reference for considering the fishery policies of Taiwan.

Structure for promotion

Norway is the first country in the world to establish an independent fishery department. The Norwegian Directorate of Fisheries was established in 1900. The Ministry of Fisheries was established in 1946, and restructured in 2004 as the current Ministry of Fisheries and Coastal Affairs. The ministry contains three divisions: Aquaculture and Marketing, Marine Resources and Coastal Affairs, and Innovative Research. Under the Ministry, there are about 20 organizations, including the Fisheries Bureau, the Aquatic Products Export Council, the National Institute of Nutrition and Seafood Research, etc. each with its designated functions.

Institutional development

Norway is known for its strict laws and regulations governing aquaculture. The Aquaculture Act promulgated in 1973 is mainly on the government authorization system, under which all aquafarms must go through the registration process and obtain a license before operation. In the amended version of the Act in 1981, the idea of regional development was included. The control through the licenses is aimed for the dual goals of environmental sustainability and economic development. At first, the license applications were restricted to allow small-scale operations. In the amended version of the Act in 2001, the requirements were relaxed, so that the Norwegian aquaculture businesses can promote horizontal and vertical integration to become large enterprises and aquaculture industry chains. Based on the Act, infrastructures and services of education, research, marketing, and aquatic medical care are provided. Low-interest loans, capital equipment subsidies, and credit guarantees are also provided to encourage marine cage culture.

The Norwegian government stabilizes the structure and development of the aquaculture industry through the regulation of licenses and supports the steady growth of small farmers into agricultural enterprises. The operators are required to pay license fees, which were used as funding for infrastructure constructions on the coasts. As of March 2018, the fund received has amounted to NOK 750 million.

Since 2004, with the enlargement of the industrial scale, the Norwegian government has replaced the subsidy system with fishery management based on ecological balance, by combining fishery resources and marine surveys. The "Marine Living Resources Act" (2009) has the concept of holistic ecosystem management incorporated. The Ecological Risk Assessments for the Effects of Fishing (ERAEF) has been developed. In terms of management, marine organisms are divided into four categories: species with the most economic value, species with economic value but lack of relevant data, species with low economic or no commercial values, and exotic species, each with its own management objectives. In the process, some simple instruments like quantitative indicators and graphic charts are used to depict the overall management needs.

For instance, there are charts demonstrating the relations between fish species (such as cod, herring, mackerel, etc.) and related conditions (degree of knowledge of the fish source, status of source of fish, mortality from fishery, management implementation, etc.), and between fishing methods (trawling, purse seine, etc.) and related conditions (selectivity of species, choice of sizes, impact on the seabed, etc.). The relationships are depicted in matrix to clearly display the most urgent targets for changes and improvement. This suggests that the Norwegian authorities use the management instruments not so much for the economic values, but for the values as indicators that are convenient and easy to understand, making effective communication.


Similar to the conditions in Taiwan, Norwegian aquatic products are highly dependent on the international market. The Norwegian Seafood Export Council (EFF) established in 1991 is meant to maintain a good reputation for Norwegian aquatic products among foreign consumers. With funding from additional tax levied on export aquatic products, EFF board members are representatives of the industry. This Council is actively associated with small and medium-sized aquaculture operators to enhance the image of Norwegian aquatic products in the international market.

In recent years, the Norwegian government has made a series of effort for aquatic product promotion, including loans, consultation, and industry analysis through foreign trade institutions, to promote export and international marketing. The EFF is in charge of developing brand strategies to build high reputation of Norwegian seafood in major markets. For example, the label of origin "Seafood from Norway" is promoted to leave foreign consumers with a favorable impression through the brand and promote consumption. This is similar to the idea of the "Taiwanese Excellence" Award.

Technology enhanced industry

Norway has many research institutes on the marine industry, including Fisheries and Aquaculture Research Institute, Marine Research Institute, Fisheries and Nutrition Research Institute, Fisheries and Aquaculture Department (SINTEF), etc. Their functions are to develop new products, services, methods, and solutions to facilitate value creation and growth, with particular emphasis on knowhow and technical exchange across sectors. Taxes levied by the EFF are partly used for funding research projects by private institutes. The Research Council of Norway also provides grants to selected research areas for innovative research. For R&D results that are beneficial to industrial development, special licenses are issued as incentives to enhance their competitiveness in the industrial chain.

In addition to topics such as fish breeding, feeds, health, fish welfare, and smart technology applications, the research on the marine environment improvement and sustainable resources has become prominent policy priority, mainly because of the climate changes in recent years. The use of fishing equipment must strictly comply with the principle of sustainability. The "High-Level Panel on Building a Sustainable Ocean Economy" was founded. Chaired by the prime minister, it plays a leading role in the promotion of SDGs upheld by the United Nations.

Norway implements strict sets of resource management methods, to meet economic and social demand while properly protecting the precious natural resources, fulfilling the dual commitments to food sustainability and environmental care. It is only through continuous use of advanced technologies and pursuit of sustainable aquaculture business model that the ever growing demand for food of the global population can be met while the surrounding environment is protected from damage. 

Talent Cultivation

More than 200,000 people are employed in the aquaculture industry in Norway. The growing application of new technologies and the new type of marine industry requires mature knowledge and techniques. To meet the demand for skilled aquaculture practitioners, the government has a solid set of programs for talent cultivation in the marine industry.

Fisheries-related tertiary institutions in Norway include Tromso University, Bergen University, Norwegian Agricultural University, and Norwegian University of Science and Technology. Vocational training is provided by higher secondary schools, mainly with two-year theoretical knowledge courses and two-year hands-on courses. Most graduates pursue their careers in the related industries. According to the long-term research and higher education plan of 2019 to 2028, the government is engaged in promoting enhancement of skills and knowledge with the use of new technologies as a main strategy. Digital applications have been a major part of the curriculum, including courses on the Internet of Things, AI, big data, automated ships and processes, and other related knowledge to attain safer, more efficient, and more environmentally friendly production.

Since 2016, over 1,500 students are recruited in the ICT programs in colleges to prepare for sufficient supply of professional operators. Along with the regional reform plans started in 2020, the local governments now play more important roles in providing curriculums that adapt to local and regional needs. Close contacts with the business communities are maintained and migrant workers are brought in to ensure sufficient supply of the labor force. The demand and supply of manpower is carefully observed as a basis for the design of curriculums of the secondary schools and vocational schools.


For problems faced by the marine industry in Taiwan, lessons are often learned from the experience of other countries. The author’s personal opinion is that the government’s function is to create a high-quality industrial environment and formulate a far-sighted blueprint for industrial development, for the practitioners of the industry to fully exercise their talent. If automation and standardization are a huge foundation, the Norwegian fishery industry is rapidly developing on this giant foundation. With its small population, the insufficiency and high cost of labor is a serious challenge for Norway even with migrant workers brought in from neighboring countries. Standardization and large-scale operation are inescapable choices, and automation has to be a major strategy taken by the Norwegian marine industry.

Therefore, scientific research institutes and schools have long been approached for the knowhow. The funding comes from the policies governing the control of the licenses. They can be used as the carrot and the stick. Companies obtain their licenses in biddings at the values of their own estimation, while the government obtains funds for industrial development. The government can impose punishment by revoking the licenses through environmental monitoring. Those companies with significant R&D contributions may obtain licenses as rewards, in a sense of "ownership purchase right" for industry popularization.

These important R&D projects that affect the development of the whole industry are mainly initiated by large companies in collaboration with semi-governmental institutes. Small companies can obtain technology transfer feedback or even use it early through early investment, in the effort to pursue industrial standardization and refined division of labor. The government, through strict enforcement of laws and regulations and popular civic education, establishes the distinctive values of the licenses to make this a marketable business. In contrast, the insufficient budget or improper use of budget in recent years has limited the industrial development in Taiwan. It has been a challenge to create a positive revenue cycle. In recent years, industry-academia alliance is promoted, the focus, however, should probably be on integrating the quality of the service rather than the products of a single company. The government also needs to play its role here, to facilitate the integration of the companies, so their refined professional division leads to more efficient production of the entire industry.

Therefore, the objectives at this stage may be on the integration of the industrial chain and induce industrial acceleration by opening up the "right to use". This is where lessons can be learned from the Norwegian experience. The quasi-standardization effect produced by the expanded industrial scale may be the only way to minimize and solve the endless management and technical problems in aquafarming. The strengthening of the foundation of industrial development is best achieved by constantly solving new problems. The R&D quality determines the normal operation of the supply chain logistics system, which further expands the major production activities, so the industry enters a positive cycle of expansion. This is what we should expect of the advancement of the aquaculture industry in Taiwan.