Efforts to reduce escapes

Publish date: January 7, 2009

The authorities have stated a short-term goal to reduce the escape of farmed salmonids to 250,000. In the long term the escape shall be reduced to a level that does not pose a negative impact on wild salmon populations. In the effort to reduce the escape the Norwegian Directorate of Fisheries has established "Vision zero escape". This action plan contains a number of measures which hopefully will contribute to achieve both the short-term and long-term goal.


A. Improved legislation

  • Three simple suggestions for legislative changes (1) double barrier drainage, (2) mesh width in relation to fish size and (3) fish farm visibility on the ship radar. The Directorate of Fisheries promote proposals for changes in regulations on three risk prevention measures. The Norwegian Coastal Administration has taken responsibility for (3). Implementation of this measure requires that the regulation change is done by the Ministry of Fisheries and Coastal Affairs. (in progress)
  • Assess improved regulations.
    The Directorate of Fisheries will establish a special committee to review the regulatory expediency in the work of escapes. Relevant agencies and organizations will be invited to participate. The work will include the measures A3-A7. The measures will in varying degrees require changes in the regulations.
  • Assess own operational requirements to cod farming.
    Cod is an easy-escape species, witch can also spawn within the cages. It is not necessarily a large distance between the farm and the natural spawning grounds for wild cod. This means that we are confronted with special difficulties when the regulations to ensure that the farming of cod can be carried out in an acceptable manner (not started).
  • Requirements that the farmer should pay for recapture after escapes.
    It is important that recapture is done effectively and is started immediately after the escape incident. Experience has shown that discussions about the pay to the fisher when an escape has taken place can result in an unnecessary slow process. It is also proposed that the responsible farmer should take the cost of removing escaped farmed fish from the spawning grounds. This must be studied further. (not started)
  • Assess own operational requirements for farming in large units, or establish upper limit on the number of fish allowed in one single cage.
    The development of aquaculture has been in the direction of an increasing number of fish per farming unit. The consequence of that one or more such farm fail is extremely high. Escape from one single pen of the largest fish farms is equal to all ocean-going salmon from all the Norwegian salmon rivers. Therefore the Directorate of Fisheries believes that it must be considered separate operating requirements for the particularly large farms, or that there is a maximum number on how many salmonids are permitted held in a cage. (not started)
  • Evaluate mandatory fishshell sampling of the remaining fish by the Directorate of Fisheries inspections after escape episodes.
    Fishshell provide information about age and growth pattern, but can also provide genetic information. It is relatively inexpensive to collect these samples, but resource-intensive to perform the genetic analyzes. The advantage is that one can make the analysis when needed. Analysis can be used to connect escaped fish to the source. This might be a significant management task in the future. (not started)
  • Assess and consider stricter localization requirements.
    The Directorate of Fisheries needs to review the regulations and practices, including in light of B1. (not started)


B. Better management tools

  • Risk assessment for fish farming.
    The Directorate of Fisheries wants to adopt risk assessment in the context of escapes. Environmental risk must, among other things, be considered in relation to the wild populations. But a single escape episode can also be given a score on the basis of expected environmental risk, which can put the administration in a position to allocate resources and prioritization of various escape episodes. (in progress)
  • Evaluate escape statistics and establish a better database of escaped farmed fish.
    Today’s escape statistics are based on the farmers own reporting to the Directorate of Fisheries. It has a significant improvement potential in both precision and how the escape episode is characterized (see also B1). (in progress)
  • Develop and establish impact indicators / vulnerability indicators for assessing the effects of escaped farmed fish.
    Development work will be carried out in cooperation with several agencies and organizations. It will form the basis for the Directorate of Fisheries monitoring of the effects of escaped farmed fish (see measures C3). (in progress)
  • Develop and implement a risk based control system for aquaculture – AKVARISK.
    Fisheries Service started in 2005 the development of a risk based control system for aquaculture. The system started up in 2007. (in progress)
  • Monitoring program of National Salmon Rivers (NLV) / National Salmon Fjords (NLF).
    The Directorate of Fisheries will contribute in in a way so that their monitoring program for escaped farmed fish can verify the system of National Salmon Rivers / National Salmon Fjords. The monitoring program will require funding from all participating government agencies, which also will have budgetary consequences for the Directorate of Fisheries. (in progress)
  • Assess sterilization of farmed.
    By sterilizing all farmed fish you will avoid that escapees will be able to genetically cross into wild populations. The use of such techniques must be considered with regard to the consequences for animal welfare, market acceptance, breeding progress and more. The Directorate of Fisheries will emphasize on a broad academic study of the problem with the assessment of legal basis. (in progress)
  • Minimum requirements for proper operation, content of the management plan and escape surveillance.
    The regulations stipulate the farming industry to operate properly. The definition of “proper” in regard to escape changes in relation to improvements in both technology and knowledge. The Directorate of Fisheries wants to concretize this based on the experience gained from revision of aquaculture businesses. They want to do this as mandatory internal reviews, but that these documents eventually should be posted on the Internet. (Expected initiated in 2007)
  • Develop new research based tools.
    Together with the Directorate for Nature Management the Directorate of Fisheries has taken the initiative to the research program TRACES. Taking into account the need for good effect indicators / vulnerability indicators for wild fish stocks it must be put an effort into research develop them. It will continuously be defined new demands on how each project will require separate funding. (in progress)


C. Increased and improved efforts

  • Full production – control aquaculture.
    In 2006, one third of all farms with salmon and rainbow trout was controlled by the Directorate of Fisheries, either by (1) audit, in cooperation with the Norwegian Food Safety Authority in accordance with the Regulations for the IK-aquaculture, (2) technical control, or (3) a special inspection campaign (see measures C2). High risk farms are the first to be checked. In addition to seafarms, hatcheries, brood fish plants and research and teaching facilities will be inspected. Seafarms for cod will also be covered. All the controls in 2006 focused mainly on escape prevention. Beginning in 2007, aquaculture control will require a strengthened budget. (in progress)
  • Control Campaign 2006.
    After the many escape episodes the Director of Fisheries decided to conduct a special inspection campaign against escapes in 2006 (included in the measure C1). This special campaign involved inspection of 60 farms for salmon and rainbow trout and 15 farms for cod.
  • Start-up of monitoring program for environmental effects of aquaculture.
    The Ministry of Fisheries and Coastal Affairs environment action plan provides for a monitoring program for environmental effects of aquaculture. The Directorate of Fisheries proposes that the environmental effects of escaped farmed fish are included in this. The initiative will require special funding. (start 2007)
  • Location fixation of aquaculture facilities (STAK).
    The Directorate of Fisheries have conducted a special data collection to get the exact positions of all the floating fish farms. This is important to avoid collisions and the potential for escape (in progress)
  • Assessment of practices and actions when fish escape.
    After the escape episodes in the first few weeks in 2006, the directorate reviewed their own procedures and actions in an internal audit. They did this to look for improvement opportunities, and got input to improve own procedures and new training initiatives. (finished)
  • Emergency drills with authorities and farmers (escape prevention).
    To study if emergency drills are an effective tool to improve the process when major escape incidents occur. It must be considered how such exercises should be organized and whether they require legislative changes. It must eventually be established a budget for these types of measures. (not started)


D. Improve communication and coordination with other government agencies

  • Better coordination with the police and prosecuting authority.
    The Directorate of Fisheries wants to improve its own procedures in cooperation with the police and prosecuting authority. The directorate see a clear advantage in contributing to a larger extent than today to ensure that reported escape episodes are followed up in the best possible way. (in progress)
  • Assess an operational cooperation with the Norwegian Coast Guard and the Norwegian Nature Inspectorate.
    Both the Coast Guard and the Norwegian Nature Inspectorate have a presence along the coast which makes them particularly valuable partners in efforts to escape prevention. The Directorate of Fisheries wants to develop a good relationship with both. (in progress)
  • Common instructions for the Directorate of Fisheries, the Norwegian Nature Inspectorate and County Department of Environmental Affairs in the efforts of escape prevention. (in progress)


E. Better communication and interaction with the industry

  • Permanent escape commission.
    The Directorate of Fisheries proposed an escape commission in 2006. Such a government appointed commission requires a separate budget and must ensure that important considerations will be taken to avoid potential conflicts. (in progress)
  • Contribute to develop voluntary standards set higher the government’s minimum.
    The Directorate of Fisheries will use various opportunities to challenge the aquaculture industry to establish and follow higher standards then the rules imposed. (in progress)
  • Better coordination with insurance agencies.
    The Directorate of Fisheries will work (1) to ensure that the escape numbers reported to the Directorate of Fisheries is consistent with amount of escapees the insurance companies pay compensation for. (2) For sharing of experience (3) Assess the possibility of a form of nature damage arrangement for recapture / other clean-up operations (see also measures A4). (in progress)
  • Participate in the revision of the NS9415.
    The Directorate of Fisheries will take part in the revision of the technical industry standard with the collected findings and expertise. (in progress)
  • Highlight the companies that operate with zero escapes, and have a proper operation record.
    The Directorate of Fisheries will attempt to identify these companies and find out what characterizes them / their operations. They will work to establish an award for a good operation that involves the Fisheries Directors recognition.
  • Dialog and information.