King worried about wild salmon

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Norway’s King Harald made it clear this week that he’s acutely aware of an ongoing conflict between Norway’s huge fish-farming industry and its stocks of wild salmon. An avid sports fisherman himself, the monarch waded cautiously into the turbulent debate, and urged protection for the wild salmon known as villaksen.

The king just returned from a private salmon fishing trip, but to Iceland, not along a Norwegian river. While he also fished along the famed Alta River this summer, several other rivers have been closed in Norway because of parasites from the fish farms that infect the wild salmon. Concerns also have been expressed over the quality of salmon coming out of the coastal fish farms.

On Tuesday the king officially opened the annual seafood industry exhibition Nor-Fishing in Trondheim, which is attracting around 20,000 participants. His presence points up the awkward position he finds himself in, needing to promote Norway’s commercial seafood interests at home and overseas while also concerned about the wild salmon. He also needs to tread carefully on any issue loaded with political conflict, because as monarch, he’s supposed to remain impartial and not express any political opinions.

His concern for the wild salmon came through in answers to questions posed by newspaper Dagens Næringsliv (DN), which has covered the controversy over fish-farming closely. Asked whether the situation for wild salmon worries him, he told DN it does, and that “there is no doubt there’s a conflict between fish-farming and wild salmon.” (PocApp photo of King Harald above taken at the wedding of Swedish Crown Princess Victoria earlier this summer, with Queen Sonja in a salmon-coloured gown.)

King Harald said he “has the impression” that the fish farming industry (called oppdrett in Norwegian) is taking the problem seriously” and is taking measures to protect wild salmon.

Asked whether the commercial interests are doing enough to prevent Norway’s wild salmon from disappearing, the king told DN: “The future will tell. If it’s not enough, the fish farmers must do more.”

King Harald claimed it “shouldn’t be any problem” to have both wild salmon in Norway and a viable fish farming industry. Throughout most of his appearance at Nor-Fishing in Trondheim, he was accompanied by Fisheries Minister Lisbeth Berg-Hansen, who’s been grappling with the conflict and been accused of being in a conflict of interest herself, because her family runs fish farms in northern Norway.

The king said he was pleased the Norway’s multi-billion-kroner salmon industry is doing well, and operating with large profits. He’s been an active promoter not least on state visits overseas and when receiving dignitaries at home, where Norwegian salmon is always on the menu.

He told DN, meanwhile, that he and his fishing buddies hooked salmon both in Iceland last week and earlier on the Alta River, but he wouldn’t brag about how big they were. “Big enough,” he told DN with a smile.

Views and News from Norway/Nina Berglund
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