Dead or alive
"If you catch 100 tonnes of wild cod in April, capture-based aquaculture enables you to sell 200 tonnes in December. This is the fishing method of the future," says Senior Scientist Kjell Midling at Nofima.
Capture-based aquaculture involves catching fish and transferring them live to sea cages where they are fed and then harvested when there is demand. This practice removes large seasonal variations in supply and, for instance, enables fresh cod to be supplied year-round. Consequently, capture-based aquaculture increases the value of the fish.
Midling is heading the new Centre of Excellence for Capture-based Aquaculture in Tromsø. Nofima was allocated the task of establishing the centre by the Ministry of Fisheries and Coastal Affairs last autumn.
"Actually, people have been doing this for thousands of years. Not killing everything man catches has been a rule of thumb in many cultures," says Midling.
The focus for the new centre of excellence will be cod, but it will also work with other species including king crab, crayfish and sea urchins.
"There are many tasks to work on and there is a large scope," says Midling.
"We need to know more about everything from fish welfare, catching gear, transport and logistics to the markets."
On a global basis, capture-based aquaculture accounts for more than 20 percent of the total volume of farmed seafood. However, there are few actors in Norway.
"When we harvest from natural stocks, such as wild cod, there is an upper limit of how much we can catch while still retaining balance in the sea," says Midling.
"If we are to earn more, we need to increase the value of what we have already caught. We need to exploit natural resources in the best way possible to avoid the loss of value along the way."
Some companies also sell live seafood to their customers. This does not currently apply to cod, but to species such as king crab, sea urchins and crayfish.
Around 20 Norwegian companies currently export live seafood, which accounts for around NOK 45 million per annum.
The National Centre of Excellence for Capture-based Aquaculture is responsible for gathering knowledge about capture-based aquaculture in Norway.
The centre shall advise the relevant authorities about strategies and regulations, and forge strategic links with national and international research institutions, including the Norwegian Institute of Marine Research.
The centre is today responsible for many different projects at Nofima, ranging from topics such as vessels and gear to markets and products.
"Capture-based aquaculture is a concept we will see more and more of in the years ahead," says Midling. "It stands for enhanced quality of seafood and higher earning power."