Farm ban at world heritage site

Farm ban at world heritage site

MOWI has been told it cannot continue with plans to carry out fish farming on a UNESCO world heritage site in a remote region of Northern Norway known as the Vega islands.
The country’s Climate Change and Environment Directorate has withdrawn permission granted to the company by Nordland’s county governor almost three years ago when it was Marine Harvest, the local newspaper for the region, Bronnoysunds Avis reports.
Agency director Ellen Hambro said in a press release the decision was arrived at following a ‘thorough assessment’.
She said Norway was obliged by international law to do everything possible to protect and preserve such an important world heritage site.
Establishing aquaculture without an adequate impact assessment related to world heritage values would be contrary to the assurances given by the Norwegian authorities to UNESCO, she added.
‘We believe that the considerations of world heritage values and Norway’s responsibility for safeguarding these must be given much greater weight than the company’s economic interest in retaining the licence.’
The Environment Agency also claimed the county governor of Nordland did not fully take into account the Vega islands’ world heritage status when granting the application.
Mowi, which has had the licence since 2016, said it would review the situation before making any further detailed comment or deciding whether to lodge an appeal.
The Vega islands are renowned for their variety of bird life, especially the colony of eider ducks, and are popular tourist area in summer.
It was the regional governor and county council of Norland, where the Vega Islands are situated, that first gave Mowi permission to carry out salmon and trout farming, because they felt it would help to provide round the year jobs and improve the local economy whose main commercial activity remains small scale fishing.
But the decision has since met with opposition from various international environmental groups including UNESCO, the influential United Nations heritage organisation, claiming the development could harm the duck population.
Meanwhile, the company has put development work on hold and has three weeks in which to lodge an appeal. If that appeal fails Mowi is still free to attempt to overturn the decision through legal action, and it can also pursue a claim for financial compensation.

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