Large quantities of farmed fish escape from Norwegian fish farms. Figures on this page shows the most common causes of escape of both salmonids and marine species. The background data is obtained from the Norwegian Directorate of Fisheries. The category “farm failure” is the main reason for escapes and contributes with 52 per cent of the number of escaped salmonids and 82 per cent of escaped marine species (mainly cod).
In many cases Bellona has reported producers to the police in connection with serious escapes. The fish farming companies were reported for violation of Section 16, first paragraph, cf. Section 25, of the Aquaculture Act and Section 3 of the Regulations of 18 December 1998 relating to Establishment, Operation, and Disease Prevention Measures at Fish Farms. Pursuant to Section 16, first paragraph, of the Fish farming Act, fish farms shall meet "adequate technical standards", and Section 3 of the Operation and Diseases Regulations (of 18 December 1998) and fish farming activities shall be operated in such a manner that "…. they are technically, biologically and environmentally acceptable". The new Aquaculture Act has now replaced the Fish farming Act from 1985 (1985-06-14 No. 68) and Havbeite Act of 2000 (2000-12-21-118).
Producers have a vested interest in preventing escapes. An escaped fish is a lost fish, and regardless of the insurance scheme, escapes are bad for business. That is why Bellona does not suspect anyone of deliberately letting fish escape. But in light of the requirements of the Aquaculture Act for environmentally sound operation and technical standards for fish farms, in individual cases we choose to report escapes to the police anyway. In other words, Bellona believes that incidents of salmon escaping are criminal acts when they are due to deficiencies in routines or malfunctioning installations. Bellona’s interpretation was confirmed by a ruling against Dåfjord Salmon in the Hålogaland Court of Appeal. It makes no difference that the escape is caused by an accident. If an accident can lead to thousands of salmon escaping, the operation is not environmentally acceptable and in violation of the requirements of the Act. However, Bellona’s experience with the escape issue has told us that the problem is taken very seriously by the industry itself, and there is a growing focus on escape-prevention measures. Research projects on new technology, training courses for employees and other actions have been implemented.