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Norwegian Salmon v. Danish Trout: Lessons On Ecology And Economics

The Danish government has banned further growth in sea-based fish farming, claiming the country had reached the limit without endangering the environment. A marine biologist says it is a misguided policy for both economic and ecological reasons.

Norwegian Salmon v. Danish Trout: Lessons On Ecology And Economics

In Norway, business is booming


“They’ve got the oil in the North Sea, but don’t let Norway get all the pink gold too…”

That was a headline of a recent OpEd in Danish daily Politiken, arguing that misguided environmental concerns are giving neighboring Norway a monopoly on the lucrative salmon industry.

With the global human population expected to reach 10 billion by 2050 and more people shifting to a healthier diet, the demand for fish is expected to double in the coming three decades — and salmonid families (that include salmon, trout and others) are the world’s most popular fish.

Fortunately for Denmark, its strong-current open waters provide for some of the cleanest trout production in the world… So what’s the issue?

8 billion in profits

In 2019, the Danish government made a decision to not support any further growth in sea-based aquaculture, claiming the country had reached the limit of the number of fish that can be raised at sea without endangering the environment.

In fact, since around the time that the EU published its Water Framework in the year 2000 — a directive that commits member states to achieve good qualitative and quantitative status of all water bodies — no permits have been granted for new aquaculture projects in Denmark.

Business is booming

Meanwhile in Norway, business is booming. Since the first salmon farms were set up in protected fjords in 1960, Norwegian salmon production has reached roughly 1.4 million tons per year — about half of the global total — and brings in €8 billion in annual profit. In Denmark, aquaculture companies produce approximately 12,000 tons of large trout per year to a far more modest total of €50 million.

This discrepancy, suggests marine biologist Johan Wedel Nielsen in Politiken, is a result of environmental concerns that are either misguided or don’t apply to Denmark. For example, fish have an inherently small impact on the environment

As trout and salmon are cold-blooded — adjusting their body heat to the water temperature — they can channel a larger portion of their energy into growth, which means they need fewer calories from food than any commonly farmed land animal.

Norwegian salmon production has reached roughly 1.4 million tons per year

Federico Gambarini/dpa/ZUMA

​Opportunities in Baltic Sea

The marine impact of a salmonid farm located far from the coast in freshly flowing water is also 10-100 times less than in areas with slower water changes, while the environmental impact of a modern farm is limited to its surrounding area. In Denmark, all combined aquaculture now occupies a mere one square kilometer.

If the government changed its stance, Nielsen argues, Denmark could eventually establish 150 new farms in the Baltic Sea — some of the world's best waters for aquaculture of large salmonids. Such an initiative would produce some 500,000 tons of trout per year with a value of €2.7 billion and employ tens of thousands in the region.

But the Danish government has so far given no indication of allowing any addition to Denmark’s 19 existing farms. Rather, with Norway’s new Labour-led coalition government planning to increase funding for the country’s aquaculture, Denmark might have to continue to import half of its yearly seafood consumption — in the form of salmon — from its northern neighbor.

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Life On "Mars": With The Teams Simulating Space Missions Under A Dome

A niche research community plays out what existence might be like on, or en route to, another planet.

Photo of a person in a space suit walking toward the ​Mars Desert Research Station near Hanksville, Utah

At the Mars Desert Research Station near Hanksville, Utah

Sarah Scoles

In November 2022, Tara Sweeney’s plane landed on Thwaites Glacier, a 74,000-square-mile mass of frozen water in West Antarctica. She arrived with an international research team to study the glacier’s geology and ice fabric, and how its ice melt might contribute to sea level rise. But while near Earth’s southernmost point, Sweeney kept thinking about the moon.

“It felt every bit of what I think it will feel like being a space explorer,” said Sweeney, a former Air Force officer who’s now working on a doctorate in lunar geology at the University of Texas at El Paso. “You have all of these resources, and you get to be the one to go out and do the exploring and do the science. And that was really spectacular.”

That similarity is why space scientists study the physiology and psychology of people living in Antarctic and other remote outposts: For around 25 years, people have played out what existence might be like on, or en route to, another world. Polar explorers are, in a way, analogous to astronauts who land on alien planets. And while Sweeney wasn’t technically on an “analog astronaut” mission — her primary objective being the geological exploration of Earth — her days played out much the same as a space explorer’s might.

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