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Marine Harvest AS on Tuesday filed a complaint with the European Free Trade Agreement’s Surveillance Authority (ESA), arguing that Norway’s ownership restrictions are preventing it from growing.

The world’s largest farmed salmon producer said it is excluded from participating in the government’s strategy for a sustainable aquaculture industry and the ongoing transition to production in larger zones, which could lead to industry consolidation. The company said it is seeking permission to participate in the consolidation.

“In our view, the present ownership regulations of the aquaculture industry are outdated,” said Marit Solberg, managing director of Marine Harvest Norway AS. “The regulations also, for all practical purposes, apply to one company only and thereby distort competition. We want to contribute actively in securing a sustainable development of this industry and, consequently, we would like to participate in this consolidation process.”

According to the existing ownership restrictions, a company has to apply to the Norwegian Ministry of Fisheries and Coastal Affairs for permission to acquire more than 15 percent of the total number of licenses, and a company is prohibited from acquiring more than 25 percent of all licenses. Marine Harvest Norway currently holds 216 standard licenses to produce edible fish, which corresponds to about 22 percent of the total licensed biomass.

“We have seen many changes within this industry since the restrictions on ownership were approved in 2005,” said Solberg. “The sustainability challenges are more prominent, the industry has grown and become more international, and Marine Harvest of today was not even established when the current regulations were discussed. In our opinion, the present regulations restrict a development of the industry toward larger entities [that] can secure a sustainable development of the industry.

“As a consequence, we have chosen to make use of our right to present today’s regulations to ESA for evaluation, and we anticipate the Norwegian government’s interest in modernizing the regulations,” added Solberg.

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