Salmon farmers take government to court, lawyer claims it’s struggling with the math over traffic light system regulations

Aslak Berge

First day in court as 25 salmon farmers fight government over traffic light system regulations.

On Monday morning, the trial of the Production Adjustment Regulations started in Sunnfjord District Court in Western Norway. The plaintiff is a total fish farming industry in Western Norway, 25 enterprises, which in the late winter of 2020 learned that the Ministry of Industry and Fisheries gave Production Area 4 (PO4) a red light in the new Traffic Light System.

This means that all aquaculture companies between Nordhordland and Stad, have to reduce their fish production by six per-cent.

The traffic light regulation indicates where and how much salmon farmers in districts of Norway can continue to produce and harvest salmon. In total, the map divides the country into 13 districts.

The lawyer for the group of fish farmers is Trond Hatland. It is the same lawyer who defeated the government in the “Norwegian Gannet” case last summer.

“The Government has chosen regulations, which do not give the right to appeal,” Hatland said in his introductory lecture. In other words, it is not a single decision under the Public Administration Act. “Thus, we are left with this option (to try this legally – .ed),” said Hatland in the courtroom.

He believes the ministry decision is built on “coincidences and arbitraries.”

“This case is not an attack on the traffic light system as such, it targets an unfunded and arbitrary decision to downs size production in PO4,” the lawyer continued.

“In summary, we believe that the case is so simple that a decision like this must be built on the facts,” he said.

Trond Hatland highlighted the foundation of the fish farmers’ rule of law.

“The reality is that fish farmers have been granted permanent production rights. This has been the case since 1973,” Hatland pointed out, referring to the introduction of the Licensing Act that year.

“How can we calculate that lice have resulted in x per-cent mortality for wild salmon? That’s the math the state is struggling with the Traffic Light system,” said Hatland.

“And how can we estimate the proportion of salmon dying from sea lice? That’s the second question the state is backing up within the Traffic Light system,” he added.

Ten days have been set aside for the proceedings in Sunnfjord District Court. SalmonBusiness is covering the trial.


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