During the last ten years a wide range of concepts have been developed for facilitating the grow-out phase of Atlantic salmon (Salmo salar) farming. In addition to traditional sea-based, open, flexible net pens, current available production methods cover land-based, submerged, semi-closed, closed, and offshore. There are large variations in solutions within each category, with some concepts crossing categories, and there is not complete agreement on where to draw the lines between categories.
Drivers for the development of novel concepts include challenges related sea lice, escapes, effects on wild salmon, fish welfare, climate, and environment. In Norway, production capacity is regulated through the traffic light system which is based on number of sea lice. The various concepts have different solutions for dealing with the challenges of the industry, however they often introduce new concerns such as material use, energy consumption, operational and structural challenges. The development licenses scheme in Norway from 2015 was a significant driver for development of new concepts (Moe Føre et al., 2022). A requirement for being awarded licenses was that the solution was novel and required significant investments (Osmundsen et al., 2022).
Ongoing processes for possible new license schemes are likely to have strict requirements for technology and area use to solve important environmental challenges. Knowledge about the effects of technology and operation on sustainability can become very important in future license schemes. However, uncertainty is still related to effects of novel concepts on environment, economic, and social sustainability.
An ambition of significant increase in Norwegian production in the next decades calls for more knowledge about what effects this growth can have on sustainability. This includes consideration of effects on local environments, climate, social and economic impacts on local, regional, and national levels. For example, land-based production is expected to have higher energy and material consumption that traditional pens, but is also expected to solve challenges related to sea lice, pollution and effects on wild salmon. Therefore, if most of the growth is realized by land-based facilities the total footprint of the industry would be different than if most of the growth was made in traditional pens.
The project “Increased knowledge about effects on climate, nature, and environment from different production methods for salmon”, funded by FHF (Norwegian Seafood Research Fund, grant #901833), seeks to enlighten this topic. This presentation focuses on the topic of work package 1 in the project, which is to document and analyse indicators for sustainability for all three dimensions of sustainability – environmental, economic, and social.
This study investigates indicators for evaluating the sustainability of different production methods for salmon farming. Considering each of the six production methods; traditional/open, land-based, submerged, semi-closed, closed, and offshore, the goal is to map and define relevant indicators for all three sustainability dimensions. The research question is what indicators are the most relevant for evaluating sustainability of production methods, what is the knowledge status, and what are the research gaps?
Initially, document analysis is performed to describe the status from existing literature on effects of salmon farming. This covers research literature, standards, regulations and sustainability reports from companies. Workshops with industry partners are then held to discuss their perception of the practicalities and usefulness of indicators, and what are the most important in their opinion with respect to the challenges of the industry and achieving sustainable farming of salmon. This step is supplemented with assessments in the project group to arrive at a selection of indicators that are more effective and comprehensive, hence having a higher utility than other indicators. Finally, interviews and discussions with key resource individuals both in industry and research will enable clarification and quality assurance of the work. In addition, a questionnaire is sent to a selection of industry partners ahead of the workshops.
Results & Discussion
There is need for a common set of indicators to assess the sustainability of aquaculture and production in new systems. Our work presents an overview of all current indicators for environmental, social, and economic sustainability and a recommendation of the indicators that are most relevant to provide a just assessment of overall sustainability. The indicators will also be weighted to reflect current regulations and national and global sustainability targets.
A wide range of indicators are used in different relations to describe aspects related to sustainability in salmon farming. Several indicators have large impacts on the companies, for example, by being used by authorities in regulating production or in reporting to investors affecting the attractiveness of the company. Uncertainty, precision, and comparability of indicators are important topics determining the trust to and legitimacy in addition to the usefulness – either in terms of directing operation in the desired direction or for gathering information on development. An example of uncertainty is when counting sea lice in a pen. Counting all 200 000 fish frequently is currently not an option, therefore there is statistical uncertainty related to the sample. Precision can be considered in terms of how well the indicator represents the more complex reality it is meant to describe, for example, how well does mortality describes fish welfare? The concern of comparability is related to the degree to which an indicator can be used to make useful comparisons between systems and productions. For example, if indicators are formulated in ways that open for “creative accounting” this can result in data making comparisons futile.
Moe Føre, H., Thorvaldsen, T., Osmundsen, T. C., Asche, F., Tveterås, R., Fagertun, J. T., & Bjelland, H. V. (2022). Technological innovations promoting sustainable salmon (Salmo salar) aquaculture in Norway. Aquaculture Reports, 24, 101115. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.aqrep.2022.101115
Osmundsen, T. C., Olsen, M. S., Gauteplass, A., & Asche, F. (2022). Aquaculture policy: Designing licenses for environmental regulation. Marine Policy, 138, 104978. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.marpol.2022.104978