In a press release on 21 March 2023, the Ministry of Trade, Industry and Fisheries announced that they are extending the period of inactivity from two years to three years as a condition for the withdrawal of aquaculture locations. This increases the threshold for loss of an aquaculture permit in cases of non-use or limited use of an aquaculture location. Former operation and sickness regulation Section 29 – repealed in 2005 – also had a three-year deadline, which is now coming back into the regulations again.
The change takes effect for salmon allocation regulation Section 9-1 and regulation on aquaculture, other fish species Section 18. These regulations, which have been issued in accordance with Section 9, third paragraph of the Aquaculture Act, state that the Directorate of Fisheries can withdraw an aquaculture permit if either (1) within two years after permission has been granted, no businesses has been established with more than 1/3 of the permitted biomass or (2) no business has been run with more than 1/3 of the permitted biomass over a period of two years, as long as the delay is not due to authority-mandated fallowing. The timeframes in these provisions are now changed to three years.
The purpose of these rules of inactivity is to avoid unnecessary restriction of sea area, which i.a. may prevent others who are interested in utilising the locations. Considerations for orderly and efficient use of resources support this. The rule on activity corresponding to at least 1/3 biomass also encourages application to match the need, and avoids permissions being granted for too large locations that the rights holder is unable to utilise. On the other hand, there may be good reasons why a fish farmer needs more time when establishing, and in the event of later interruptions, without risking the loss of the permit.
It is required that the Directorate of Fisheries makes a decision on withdrawal, i.e. that withdrawal does not happen automatically. This is in contract to the inactivity rule in Section 16, fourth paragraph of the Harbour Act, where permission automatically lapses if measures are not initiated within three years of the granted permission, or if work on the measure is suspended for more than two years. Whoever establishes a new location must be aware of this radical rule, which applies regardless of the reason for the delay, as a requirement for location permits is that you also have a valid permit pursuant to the Harbour Act, cf. Section 6 of the Aquaculture Act and the allocation regulations. The deadline pursuant to the Harbour Act can, however, be extended up to three years.
The starting point is that the Directorate of Fisheries, in the event of inaction for two (now three) years, must withdraw the permit. At the same time, the Directorate of Fisheries has some discretion to make exceptions, but this is expected to be limited. The Directorate of Fisheries has given several examples of what does not grant an exception, i.a. bad times, challenges with financing and delays in the delivery of technical equipment or spawn. Unexpected conditions beyond the fish farmer’s control may, however, give rise to exceptions. The extended deadline from two to three years provides a better opportunity for longer periods of inactivity and thus better flexibility in production. The extended deadline will probably also mean that the already narrow window for obtaining exceptions to the deadline will be further narrowed. An application for an extension will be a relevant move if you consider the situation to be such that there is a risk of exceeding the deadline. Own documentation and securing evidence is also recommended in cases where you will end up at the edge of the deadline. For example linked to the time of establishment of business and that the activity corresponds to at least 1/3 biomass. The assessment at the time of withdrawal of permit (3 years from the granted permit) is whether the aquaculture animals that have been produced will be able to make up 1/3, even if they do not currently amount to this. In cases of later mortality, it is an advantage to be able to refer to previous stock and its potential.