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Celebrating 50 years of Norwegian Salmon

2020 marks the 50th anniversary of the first ever successfully farmed salmon in Norway. It’s a story of ambition, collaboration, setbacks and successes, culminating in a fish which has become a favourite on dinner plates across the globe. Now 14 million meals of Norwegian salmon are eaten every day around the world.

It's been 50 years since Norwegian salmon was successfully farmed in Norway

Out of these 50 years, Norwegian salmon has been pleasing the palates of Malaysians for at least 20, both at home and in restaurants, with the demand for this and the Norwegian fjord trout increasing steadily through the years. And Norway has emerged as the preferred country of origin for salmon and fjord trout among Malaysians, according to the Norwegian Seafood Council’s (NSC) annual Seafood Consumer Insight.

In 2019 the exports of Norwegian salmon and fjord trout to Malaysia totalled 4,056 tons, to the value of US$26,625,035, marking a 20.35% rise in volume and 16.2% in value over the previous year (2018). Since its beginnings along the coast of Norway in the spring of 1970, salmon farming has grown into a global industry at the forefront of new technologies. Norway was the first, and remains the largest Atlantic salmon farming nation, producing more than half the world’s farmed salmon along its long coastline washed by cold and clear waters all year round.

The salmon farm of the Grøntvedt brothers at Hitra, 1972. Picture by Nationalbiblioteket, Magnus Berg 

It is hard to imagine a world where salmon, whether served in sushi and sashimi, smoked, grilled or pan-fried, didn’t exist on menus or dinner plates across the world. Norwegian salmon as a mainstream year-round food staple would not have come about if not for two seafood-loving entrepreneurial brothers.

On 28 May 1970, on the island of Hitra off the coast of Norway, brothers Ove and Sivert Grøntvedt put in their floating open net pen the salmon which would grow into the very first successful generation of farmed Atlantic salmon. They laid the foundations of modern aquaculture in Norway and abroad.

14 million meals every day
Salmon farming has come a long way since, and every day 14 million meals of Norwegian farmed salmon are enjoyed on dinner tables and in restaurants across the world. As the world looks to more sustainable food production, modern aquaculture technology represents a major contributor both to meet the ever-increasing demand for proteins and as part of the solution to battling climate change.

50 years of Norwegian salmon history
In 1971 the Grøntvedt brothers harvested the very first generation of successfully farmed salmon. Several other salmon farms followed. In 1973 the Norwegian parliament introduced a new law for salmon farms, to regulate fish welfare and quality. Norwegian aquaculture grew about 40% every year between 1972 and 1975. Salmon became profitable, selling at prices equivalent to up to 10 times of today’s salmon price.

In the 1980s salmon farms grew along the entire Norwegian coastline, and Norwegian salmon began to conquer the European and US markets.  With rapid growth came big challenges. Illness was a problem for many salmon farms, and the fish farmer’s sales organization established a joint project to work on fish welfare and research into fish health.

Salmon samurais, Project Japan in 1986. It marked the start of salmon in sushi and boosted the high demand for Norwegian salmon.

In 1986  “Project Japan” headed by Norwegian pioneer Thor Listhaug aimed at doubling Norwegian exports of salmon. It marked the start of salmon in sushi. Between 1986 and 1991 Norwegian salmon exports grew 250 per cent! The introduction of salmon in sushi played a major role. In 1980 Norway exported 2 tonnes of salmon to Japan; 20 years later the volume reached 40,000 tonnes.

In 1990 total salmon production reached 170,000 tonnes, compared with 8,000 tonnes in 1980 and 500 tonnes in 1970. In the 1990s Norwegian scientists together with the industry introduced some of the first vaccines for fish. The new vaccines replaced the use of antibiotics in Norwegian salmon farming. In 1995 the number of salmon and fjord trout farming locations in Norway reached 1,220.

In 2005 The Norwegian parliament passed the “Aquaculture Law” to support profitability of the sector whilst safeguarding sustainable development. In 2015 Norway became the largest producer of Atlantic salmon in the world, with 53 percent of all farmed salmon coming from Norwegian fjords.

Technological advances in 2017 have made salmon farms safer and more productive. “Ocean farm 1” became the world’s first remotely operated ocean farm with space for up to 1.5 million salmon. The farm is equipped with state-of-the-art sensors and digital systems to control fish health and the environment.

In 2018, effective vaccination programs meant the use of antibiotics in Norwegian salmon farming has been reduced by 99 percent since 1987. Less than 2 percent of Norwegian salmon has been treated with antibiotics.

 In 2020 more offshore salmon farms are starting production, representing a new era for the industry. Norwegian salmon is the most preferred fish in the world, according to NSC Seafood Consumer Index 2020.

Norwegian salmon and seafood are safe to eat
Food safety has always been the highest priority for Norwegian salmon farming. Throughout the entire production cycle, strict regulation and monitoring ensure the highest possible food safety standards. Norwegian salmon is free from any unwanted substances or parasites due to being fed exclusively a controlled healthy diet.

Norwegian salmon is especially rich in protein, vitamin A, D and B12, antioxidants and Omega-3. It is a healthy and delicious addition to any diet. For more information, please visit https://en.seafood.no/.


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