World’s oldest fisheries exhibition turns 50

Next month, Nor-Fishing opens its doors in Trondheim, Norway. The biennial fisheries exhibition celebrates its 50th anniversary this year and, as usual, the latest technology for catching and processing fish will be on display.

However, Nor-Fishing also forms a focal point for those involved in fisheries to discuss common problems and opportunities. Everyone from local fishermen to fisheries ministers and FAO officials will be there and can meet formally and informally to express their views on what has become a very complex industry.

Norway has always been one of the world’s most important sources of seafood. It is now ranked second in the list of the world’s exporters, and the volume and value of its exports is increasing year by year. More than 50 percent (by value) of the seafood produced is, of course, now farmed, but Norwegian fishing vessels still go out and catch about 2.5 million metric tons of fish and shellfish annually, about 95 percent of which is shipped to buyers all around the world.

After oil — and one day the wells will run dry — seafood is Norway’s most important revenue earner. So, it is no exaggeration to say that Nor-Fishing, and its sister aquaculture exhibition Aqua Nor, which is held in alternate years, are both vital to the country’s economy.

Norway has a long tradition of putting on fisheries exhibitions, and Nor-Fishing is now the world’s longest-running fisheries event.

The largest and most important exhibition at the beginning of the 20th century was the Scandinavian Fisheries Fair in Trondheim in 1908, which was open from July until early September. This was the first fisheries exhibition attended by Norway’s then very new royal family.

In the years that followed a number of smaller exhibitions were held, but it was not until the mid-1950s that the Norwegian government became involved and the first official exhibition, Norsk Fiskerimesse (Norwegian Fisheries Fair), was organised in Bergen in 1960.

This exhibition was a great success, and no fewer than 130,000 people visited it. Unlike today’s exhibitions, which focus mainly on technology and attract fishermen and others working in the industry, the first fair tried to attract the general public and showed how fish and seafood could be used at home.

The success of the Bergen exhibition led to plans for another exhibition, but it was not until five years later that King Olav V opened the second official Norwegian Fisheries Fair on 19 August, 1965. This exhibition was the first to be held in Trondheim to make it more accessible to fishermen from the northern part of the country.

The Trondheim exhibition attracted more foreigners, both as exhibitors and as visitors, and the professional orientation of the event increased.

The exhibition gradually changed its name from The Norwegian Fisheries Fair, to The 4th Norwegian Fisheries Fair — Nor-Fishing in 1972 to accommodate the international interest in the event, to just Nor-Fishing in later years.

During the past 10 to 15 years, Nor-Fishing has faced new challenges, as has the industry itself. Concern for the environment, food safety and sustainability has been reflected in the exhibition, as well as in the growing number of conferences, workshops and seminars organized around it.

Given the way the fisheries industry is changing, it is arguable that these meetings have become as important as, if not more so, than the actual exhibits themselves.

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