Norway has just marked the 50th anniversary of the creation of the modern salmon farming industry – one year late. Celebrations were due to take place in June last year, but they had to be postponed because of the coronavirus lockdown.
Not to be beaten, the industry agreed it was too important an occasion to ignore and celebrated it on the island of Hitra in Trøndelag county where it is thought salmon farming as we know it today began back in 1970, although opinions differ over the exact location.
A few people were actually carrying out trout and salmon farming in cages a decade earlier, but it was of a relatively elementary nature. It is generally acknowledged that 1970 was the start year of fish farming on a proper commercial basis.
In the 600 months since then, Norway has grown to become the world’s largest salmon farming nation, exporting more than a million tonnes a year, worth around £6bn (NOK 72bn). The goal is five million tonnes by 2050.
Norway’s main aquaculture companies are major players in several other salmon producing countries including Scotland, Chile and Canada.
The industry has also created scores of millionaires and more than a few billionaires, although at the beginning most were mortgaging their homes, not knowing if their enterprises would become a success.
More importantly, the industry has provided two of the healthiest foods going – salmon and trout – for millions around the world.
Crown Prince Haakon opened events with a video broadcast in which he praised the entrepreneurial spirit of the early pioneers and their courage in risking their homes to get their businesses off the ground.
However, the Hitra celebrations were somewhat muted because Covid restrictions are still in place, but the organisers were able to honour those early pioneers, many of whom who have since died. They also managed to stage an exhibition and create a celebratory atmosphere without a traditional party.
The occasion, broadcast on TV, was a collaboration between Hitra municipality, Seafood Norway, the Ministry of Trade and Fisheries and the Coastal Museum in Sør-Trøndelag.
The Sør-Trøndelag museum has also undertaken a systematic collection of historical archive material from those early aquaculture days.