Fishing and aquaculture: learning from our Norwegian neighbours
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Peter McLuckie is a Senior Associate in the Corporate team Harper Macleod who plays a key role in the firm's Food & Drink and Marine Economy groups. Here, he shares his insight from the recent Marine Economy Week hosted by the firm.
Earlier this year, I took part in Harper Macleod's inaugural Marine Economy Week (MEW) which looked at the scale of the opportunities and challenges that face us as we look to sustainably benefit from the vast natural capital that we have.
Here in the Highlands, Islands and Moray, we are fortunate to have so many natural assets and much of the services and products our economy provides, and the value of that economy, is tied up in these assets. The Marine, or Blue Economy, is a huge part of that with fishing and aquaculture central to it.
Post Brexit trading
As we all adjust to trading in a post Brexit world, the EU-UK Trade & Co-operation Agreement and in particular its Food & Drink sector implications including Rules of Origin and export requirements for fish and seafood – of which so much has been reported in recent months – are vital.
As someone with many years' experience in the Food & Drink sector, going through the intracacies of Rules of Origin and the restrictions which are now in place makes it clear why there is still so much work to be done post Brexit.
Even where in principle there is tariff free trade, there are still practical issues which impact on the ability to trade effectively in seafood projects. From day one, the issues with fisheries have been central to the UK's agreement with the EU, for a variety of reasons which are not always economic, and its important cannot be overstated.
Learning from Norway
During Marine Economy Week I was joined by Trond Hatland, a Norwegian lawyer and a specialist advising that country's fishery and aquaculture sector
One of our aims with MEW was to bring a different perspective to the discussions, and Trond's insight into the Norwegian experience was fascinating. As we all know, Norway has been held up as a model for Scotland in a variety of contexts, however there is little doubt that in terms of aquaculture we can learn a lot from a nation with so many similarities to ours.
Norway is Europe's largest fishing nation and one of its main centres of trade in that sector, with exports of around £2.6 billion a year. As such, it has developed fishing companies which have global scale, including six of the 20 largest firms in the fish farming industry.
It is leading the way in tackling the issue of moving from land-based food production – with all the sustainability issues that brings – to sea-based food production. It aims to double its aquaculture exports over the next decade and the levels of research and development going on are staggering – a 'space race' in the oceans to be the first to effectively harness the potential. From huge onshore fish-farming to deep sea facilities, the industrial focus is strong. That is going hand in hand with infrastructure changes and consolidation in the market.
One point Trond highlighted, and that I'm sure will be noted by ambitious, innovative Scottish companies was that the capital markets in Norway are extremely buoyant with a number of successful seafood company listings take place. If you have a product and need to launch and get capital, Oslo seems to be the place to go.
See for yourself
It was a fascinating session and one which I would recommend those with an interest in aquaculture in particular should watch.
MEW 2021 was held virtually, and the sessions from all five days are available on Harper Macleod website to watch on demand.