A major civil court case has opened to test the legality of Norway’s controversial fish farming traffic light scheme.
Expected to last up to two weeks, the hearing was triggered by 25 salmon and trout companies, mostly based in the south west of the country, who claim not only that they are being robbed of their livelihood, but that the country is losing out on its second most valuable export.
The scheme, they also argue, will also impact on many coastal communities who depend on aquaculture for jobs and social amenities.
The plaintiffs are being led by senior counsel Trond Hatland, who plans to contest that the scheme on the grounds it is not based on scientific fact. He says it was also introduced at the start of last year with very little warning.
The Oslo government say the scheme is part of a wider strategy to reduce salmon lice and to protect wild fish stocks.
It has divided the coastline into several colour-coded production zones: green, where aquaculture expansion can take place virtually unhindered; amber or orange, where limited expansion is allowed; and red (also known as production area-4), where fish farming activity must be reduced.
The companies have said the scheme as it stands will cost them at least 12,000 tonnes of salmon and trout production. They are claiming around £20m (NOK 250m) in compensation.
Seafood and Fisheries Minister Odd Emil Ingebrigtsen has said he is confident the government case will stand up.
However, he has appointed a group of academics, including two scientists from Scotland, to evaluate the science and how it controls lice. The team is expected to report its findings before the end of the year.