Two weeks ago the ICES Secretariat offered a warm welcome to Ole Torrissen, a Norwegian scientist joining on secondment from the Institute of Marine Research (IMR) in Bergen. Hailing from the north of his country, Ole went on to make his name in and later become an expert on aquaculture. Under the visiting scientists programme and with a year-long tenure in Copenhagen, Ole's help in expanding ICES work in the field of aquaculture, one of its strategic areas, will be invaluable.
Can you tell us a bit about your background?
I've been working at IMR since 1978, most of the time managing aquaculture projects. I've been responsible for the aquaculture stations in Matre and Austevoll, IMR's aquaculture department, and, for the last 6 years, the basic biology programme.
I grew up in a traditional north Norwegian fishing community with a family involved in fisheries and aquaculture, so I actually got my own rowing boat before my first bicycle! My family started an aquaculture operation in 1973, quite a large one with processing and export and so on. We also ran herring and capelin fisheries. So I've grown up with fish. The ambition of my parents was to get the kids into other areas apart from fisheries, but they didn't succeed!
What will you contribute to ICES?
One of the ambitions of IMR is to get ICES more active in giving advice on aquaculture. If ICES is going to be successful in this area, it needs to develop North Atlantic aquaculture in the area where it really means something in (terms of) food supply. This has some impact on food security.
Can you explain how important aquaculture is in general?
The world's population is going to rise to 9.65 billion by 2050 and the buying power of people in big countries like China and India will still rise. We need a substantial increase in our food supply: it's estimated that we'll need 70% more food by 2050 than we produce today, and we will have to use the oceans to produce food. The understanding is that aquaculture will be a major supplier of seafood to the world's population.
What are the challenges in this field going forward?
The biggest challenge in all this is the balance between use and misuse, to create a production that is responsible. There is a very delicate balance between protection and use. On the other hand, all food production in the world has a price, which is more or less independent of where the food is produced. If we're eating fish or meat or whatever, the environment will always pay a price. If we eat pangasius from Vietnam, the Vietnamese have to pay the price; if we eat salmon from Chile, the Chileans have to pay the price. I think we have to accept that we'll be paying our fair share of the price and we can't insist on leaving our oceans unused and expect that the Vietnamese, Chileans, or Chinese should utilize their areas for feeding us.
Finally, what fish are you most fond of?
Because I'm from northern Norway, halibut has a special position there and there's a lot of mythology connected to it. There was a pride in everyone getting their own fresh halibut for Christmas, and my father always lived up to that tradition.