Braanaas on traffic light system and risk of biomass cuts: ‘A Stasi system’

Aslak Berge

Norwegian salmon farmer will go to court if he has to reduce biomass because of other farmers’ problems.

The New York Times has been visiting Gulen, in the southwestern part of Norway, and interviewed salmon farmers about the newly introduced traffic light system, designed to protect the country’s stocks of wild salmon.

The traffic light system is based on the assumption that production growth of farming could add to the decline of wild salmon. Sea lice, endemic to the oceans, have emerged as a huge problem for the fish farms, multiplying in such numbers that they kill farmed fish and pose a risk to young wild salmon as they pass the holding pens on their way to the open sea.

The NYT interviewed farmer Ola Braanaas, owner of Firda Seafood. As a teenager he had an aquarium in his bedroom. Today he has 1.2 million salmon and trout in his cages. Braanaas says there is an existing framework for controlling lice and that he will go to court if he is asked to reduce production due to problems of other aquaculture facilities in his region.It is a ‘Stasi system’, he said with reference to the secret police in East Germany.
The country’s largest salmon producer, Marine Harvest, is also unhappy with the new protocol, which it describes as premature, and wants more work done on the method used to adress the problem.

‘Sacred wild salmon’
Braanaas admits that the Norwegian salmon production industry has made many mistakes. However, he stresses that there were many more problems in other parts of the world, like Chile, where regulation is lighter and “greed takes over.”

As a selfmade businessman whose parents mortgaged their home to help finance his first fish farm, Braanaas is proud of the company he has built and of the employment he offers in areas dominated by pig farming. And he believes that some of his critics are motivated by a sentimental reverence for wild salmon.

“In India they have the sacred cows,” he said, reflecting over a beer. “In Norway it is the sacred wild salmon.”