Tax penalty proposed for failing to control sea lice numbers

Norway’s salmon farmers could face an extra tax if the number of salmon lice goes too high, a report has suggested.

The proposal has come in a 190-page report from the Aquaculture Committee, set up two years ago to look into various issues around the permit system in the industry. The changes suggested would relax the rules in some areas, but introduce new financial penalties.

Linda Nøstbakken, who heads the committee, has now presented her report to the Fisheries Ministry. She says that the rapid growth of the industry has brought a number of challenges around the environment, fish welfare and biosecurity, but problems with salmon lice and diseases have limited the growth opportunities.

A new, comprehensive management system for aquaculture must provide stronger incentives for sustainable choices that safeguard biosecurity and the environment, the report states.

Nøstbakken says she has taken “a little more whip and a little more carrot” to some of these challenges.

On the carrot side the committee has proposed lowering the limit at which salmon companies are required to take measures against lice.

But the stick could mean a tax on lice that are above the acceptable measured limits.

The committee was appointed by the Norwegian government in October 2021 to review the permit system in the aquaculture industry.

Among other things, the committee was asked to assess the objectives for the permit regulations, the entirety of the system and how it can be adapted to existing and new challenges.

Other recommendations proposed by the committee include removing a measure in the “traffic light” system – which divides coastal zones into “red”, “yellow” and “green” regions – mandating a reduction in production when lice numbers go beyond a certain level.

The committee is also proposing the removal of the “yellow” category in the traffic light system. This currently allows salmon and trout production to continue at current levels but does not permit increases.

The report has now been sent for consultation with a deadline of 2 January 2024.

Fisheries Minister Bjørnar Skjæran said the committee had carried out a thorough review of the permit system, adding that he planned to assess the proposals in more detail, taking in input from the consultation. However, he does not envisage major changes to the traffic light system.

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