After years of wrangling, Mowi looks to have finally received clearance to carry out fish farming on a UNESCO World Heritage site in a remote region in northern Norway.
Despite earlier objections from various environmental groups, including UNESCO, the Ministry of Trade and Industry has granted provisional permission for work to go ahead in Rødskjæran on the Vega Islands.
The permit is conditional on the grounds it is compatible with a new municipal plan for the Vega coastal area.
Fisheries and Seafood Minister Odd Emil Ingebrigtsen said: “I am glad that we have found a good solution that provides predictability for both the municipality and business interests, and is in line with local decisions that facilitate co-existence between world heritage and new sustainable industries.”
In a region where employment opportunities are few, the Mowi plan has been welcomed by local people. Ingebrigtsen said environmentally sound aquaculture can be combined with safeguarding world heritage values.
The decision should end a long-running dispute between the salmon farming giant (which began the process in 2016 when it was Marine Harvest), and a number of powerful environmental groups.
Permission was originally granted by Nordland’s county governor, but in 2019 the Norwegian Environment Directorate withdrew the permit on the grounds that the site had World Heritage status which had not been taken into account by the governor. Mowi was forced to put development work on hold.
The Vega region is a cluster of dozens of small islands just south of the Arctic Circle, covering a land and water area of more than 100,000 hectares (250,000 acres). It is home to 230 species of birds.
The islands bear testimony to a simple way of life dating back 1,500 years, based on small scale fishing and, in particular, the breeding and harvesting of eider ducks which are renowned for their feathers.