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Rule allowing Norwegians to export 'poorest quality' salmon sparks dispute

Robert Eriksson, general manager of Norwegian Seafood Association, demanded the Minister of Fisheries and Seafood change the regulations.

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A Norwegian regulation covering the export of "non-conforming" goods for export outside the European Economic Area (EEA) is coming under fire.

Norwegian Food Safety Authority Seafood Manager Lise Rokkones told IntraFish the rule applies to salmon that is safe but not up to EEA standards.

"So-called non-conforming goods, goods that do not meet the EU's quality requirements, can basically be exported to countries outside the EEA, as long as it is safe," Rokkones said.

The regulation was put in place on Oct. 1, 2018 by the Ministry of Agriculture and Food, but comes in direct conflict with a previous regulation by the Ministry of Trade and Fisheries that stipulates that non-conforming salmon and trout cannot be exported.

"These salmon are the lowest quality fish. They can be sexually mature, have ulcers, malformations or 'gross treatment errors,'" she said. "To date, it has been widely believed that it must be addressed or processed in Norway. However, it now appears that it can be exported to countries outside the EEA."

As long as there is demand for the fish, and it is safe, it can be exported, Rokkones said, although from that point rules may differ depending on the importing country.

All production of non-conforming goods must be reported to the Norwegian Food Safety Authority.

"We are currently working on a general certificate for non-conforming goods, so it remains to be seen which countries will accept it," she said. "We have a long list of countries we negotiate with, and that is quite demanding. Initially, we work with agreements on conforming goods."

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In the face of the upcoming Brexit, the regulation could also allow harvesting boats to bring lower grade fish to the UK.

Last week, Norwegian Seafood Association General Manager Robert Eriksson demanded the Minister of Fisheries change the regulations.

"We are now asking the Minister of Fisheries and Seafood to change and clarify the current regulations so that the fish quality regulation's main rule on the bleaching and cleaning of fish will become more prominent and applicable, even when it comes to exporting to countries outside the EEA," said Eriksson.

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