Aquaculture, Norway and the World

John Erik Stacy, 4 Oct 2010

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Norway has exported more than $ 2.7 billion worth of “farmed fish” and other products of aquaculture so far this year. This is a 30% increase relative to the same period last year (Jan – July) and is expected to total more than $4.5 bn for the year, well surpassing last year’s total of $ 3.7 bn. About 70% of these export revenues come from sales to European Union nations. Although growth in North American markets was strong last year, the USA and Canada purchased under 10% of Norway’s aquaculture product. Other important markets include Russia (8%), Japan (4%), China (3%) and other Asian nations (5%).

Aquacultural production worldwide

Worldwide, fish and shellfish produced in aquaculture comprise about 37% of all seafood and are valued at near $100 bn. China is by far the biggest fish-farmer, exceeding 2nd place India by nearly a factor of 10, and is also the nation with the greatest portion (69%) of its seafood derived from aquaculture. The table shows a ranking of nations by the 2008 output of product in pounds, placing Norway at number 7 and the USA at 13. Note that the USA derives only 10% of its fish from farming. By contrast, we captured more than 9.5 bn pounds of fish from the wild in 2008, placing us in 3rd place after Indonesia among fishing nations (Norway sinks to 11th place in this regard).

Farmed salmon, trout and char in Norway

Norway is identified with farmed Atlantic Salmon, which became well known in the US as cold-smoked “lox” topping for bagels in the 1980s. Salmo salar, the export of which from Norway in 2009 was worth approximately $3.5 bn does comprise the lion’s share of Norway’s aquaculture product. In addition to Atlantic salmon, farmed rainbow trout (Oncorhynchus mykiss a species native to Pacific waters) was exported from Norway to the tune of about $285 million in 2009. Another salmonid farmed in Norway is the Arctic Char, Salvelinus alpinus. About $875,000 worth of Char was exported from Norway in 2009. That is approximately 3 times the preceding years export value of Char, suggesting strong growth potential for this species.

Other fish and shellfish raised in Norway

In addition to salmon and its relatives, over $60 million worth of other farmed seafoods (Cod, Halibut, Turbot, Scallops and Mussels) was exported from Norway in 2009.

Major companies involved in Norwegian aquaculture

Norwegian companies in aquaculture include Marine Harvest (OSL:MHG), Cermaq (OSL:CEQ), SalMar (OSL:SALM), Lerøy Seafood Group (OSL:LSG) and Grieg Seafood (OSL:GSFO). These companies all have subsidiaries outside of Norway and many are invested in production facilities ranging from Scotland to Chile. Marine Harvest was formed in 2006 when Pan Fish ASA, Fjord Seafood ASA and Marine Harvest N.V merged. It is the largest of these companies, with 4947 employees (nearly as many as the others combined) and market capitalization of $18.6 bn. Marine Harvest operations include fish farming, processing and sales and their products range from fresh fish to smoked as well as breaded frozen fish. Cermaq has 3277 employees and market cap of $5.8 bn. In addition to farmed salmon and trout, Cermaq operates fish bi-products processing facilities and produces fish and other agricultural feeds. Lerøy Seafood Group employs 1563, is capitalized at $7.1 bn and has operations in addition to salmon that include whitefish and shellfish. Grieg Seafood is owned in part by The Grieg Group ASA and produces a variety of salmon products.

Aquaculture important income source for Norwegians

Besides these really big companies, Norwegian endeavors in aquaculture include a plethora of mom and pop operations as well as start-ups. Some of these are “outside the box” actors, like GenoMar with its interests in Tilapia. Norwegians still haul in almost 3 times as much fish from the ocean as they raise in pens, but they are clearly heavily invested in the latter practice. Also, note that export from aquaculture is worth almost $1000 per man, woman and child in Norway (compared to about $50 worth produced per person in China). So the bottom line for aquaculture in Norway is that it makes money.

Numbers specific to Norwegian export were derived from tables published on the Norwegian industry organization Fiskeri- og havbruksnæringens landsforening website at NOK values converted to USD using the average exchange rate on the relevant period. Links to Food and Agriculture sources are and

This article was originally published in the Oct. 15, 2010 issue of the Norwegian American Weekly. For more information about the Norwegian American Weekly or to subscribe, call us toll free (800) 305-0217 or email

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