Slow Fish in Action
Salmon in the Fjord
Encouraging dialog at the Hardangerfjord seminar
The Hardangerfjord, a long, beautiful and steep fjord southeast of Bergen, used to be an important area for wild salmon and sea trout. The salmon fisheries in the rivers along the fjord began attracting tourists to the region in the 1880s, and there was great potential for fishing tourism. However, it was chosen instead to develop the salmon farming industry.
To discuss this choice and its impact on the fjord, in 2008 environmental consultant and Slow Fish network member Sven-Helge Pedersen decided to organize an annual seminar to allow all the stakeholders to meet and exchange views: policymakers, academics, representatives from the wild and farmed fish industries, activists and local associations of landowners, farmers, fishers and hunters. The meeting has a strong focus on biological diversity and living conditions for wild salmon, sea trout and other wild species.
"People connected to the many rivers in the Hardangerfjord system created the Hardangerfjord Villfisklag association in 2004. They saw the fish farming industry's impact on wild fish stocks and ecosystems as a common problem and threat. As one of the organization's leaders, I took the initiative to create an annual platform for sharing knowledge and creating an understanding that we need to change direction in how we manage the fjord, working with the Hordaland hunters and fishers", says Sven-Helge.
In just a few years, the Hardangerfjord seminar has become one of the country's most important platforms for knowledge exchange and discussion around issues relating to environmental and marine management.
This year, the seminar once again gathered participants from all over Norway and offered a variety of academic workshops spread over two days, showing that the gradual decline of wild fish stocks and the social impact of the farmed salmon industry are not only affecting the Hardangerfjord but are spreading all along the Norwegian coast.
The Norwegian Minister for Fisheries and Coastal Affairs, Lisbeth Berg-Hansen, gave the opening speech, which was followed by a whole day dedicated to the environmental challenges of Norwegian aquaculture. The Norwegian Food Safety Authority also presented the first evaluation of zone regulations for the control of sea lice in the Hardangerfjord. Søren Larsen, from the Danish Center for Wild Salmon (Vildlaks), presented the success story of the development of Danish salmon rivers in recent years.
Despite many challenges, Sven-Helge feels that progress is being made: "The Hardangerfjord seminar focuses on the core problems of our fjords and coastal waters, which cause many conflicts. Until now, we have always seen a sort of ‘war' between different stakeholders, but this year, a clear message came out that all sides need to get out of the trenches to create sustainable solutions for the future of our common heritage, the Hardangerfjord."