‘Dalai Lama meet would make China clash eternal’

The president of the Norwegian parliament has defended his decision not to meet the Dalai Lama when he comes to Oslo next month, arguing that to do so would destroy years of painstaking work to mend relations with China.

'Dalai Lama meet would make China clash eternal'
Parliament president Olemic Thommessen and Nina Elisabeth Høstmælingen Thommessen arrive at the Nobel Banquet at the Grand Hotel in December. Photo: Fredrik Varfjell/NTB Scanpix
"I do not think it is a cowardly decision,"  Olemic Thommessen, an MP for the Conservative party, told Aftenposten. "I think I have made a decision that is responsible and appropriate to safeguarding Norwegian interests. This is not a capitulation to China. This is a matter of not making the situation between China and Norway harder." 
Norway has been using soft diplomacy to mend relations with China, which were seriously damaged in 2010, when the Norwegian Nobel Committee awarded the Nobel Peace Prize to Chinese dissident Liu Xiaobo. 
In February, Bergen's KODE Art Museum returned seven marble columns taken from the Old Summer Palace in Beijing more than a century ago. 
This month the National Library of Norway sent the country a rare print of the 1927 Chinese film, The Cave of the Silken Web. 
Thommessen told the newspaper that the political fall-out from China if he met the Tibetan spiritual leader would be intense. 
"It would put an end to the ongoing efforts to get started with a normalization," he said. "I think we need to consider our actions, based on the situation that actually prevails. Since 2010, we have had absolutely no contact with Chinese authorities." 
Henning Kristoffersen, a China expert with country risk consultants DNV GL, backed up Thommessen in an interview with Aftenposten. 
"If the government wants to regain a normal relationship with China, it must refrain from meeting the Dalai Lama," he told the paper. "One thing is certain: If the government meets the Dalai Lama, the conflict with China will continue into eternity." 
The exiled spiritual leader of the Tibetan people, Tenzin Gyatso, will visit Oslo from May 7th to 9th at the invitation of the Norwegian Nobel Committee,  the Karma Tashi Ling Buddhist Society and the Norwegian Tibet Society. 
On May 9th, he is visiting the Norwegian parliament to meet Ketil Kjenseth, a politician from the Liberal Party who leads the parliamentary Tibet committee. 
Thommessen has caused scandal by requesting that the Dalai Lama use a back door entrance to parliament and refusing to allow him to be met in the most prestigious parliamentary chambers. 

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Norwegian salmon farming moves to cleaner indoor waters

Hundreds of thousands of salmon swim against the current in southeast Norway -- in massive indoor tanks away from the nearest river as the controversial industry increasingly embraces greener land-based facilities.

Norwegian salmon farming moves to cleaner indoor waters
Salmon farms are being moved indoors. Photo by Brandon on Unsplash

The fish live in two gigantic pools inside an inconspicuous industrial building in Fredrikstad owned by a company that plans to raise salmon in similar settings even further afield, in the United States.

By raising the salmon on land, the industry is attempting to move away from the river or sea cages that have invited criticism over a slew of issues.

The problems run from costly mass escapes to fish infected with sea lice treated with chemicals to mounds of faeces and feed piling up on the seabed below the farms.

“At sea, you depend on the almighty for many things. In a land-based farm, we are suddenly the all-powerful one,” Fredrikstad Seafoods general manager Roger Fredriksen told AFP.

“Here we control everything: temperature, oxygen, pH, CO2,” he said as he gave a tour of Norway’s first land-based salmon farm, opened in 2019.

Pumped from the nearby mouth of Norway’s largest river, the salt water that feeds the facility is treated with UV light to eliminate viruses and bacteria and afterwards it is cycled and filtered through a loop for repeated use.

Under a faint blue light, designed to trigger their appetite, the salmon swim day and night as they are fed food pellets from an overhead dispenser.

When they reach between four and five kilograms (nine and 11 pounds), they are harvested.

“The fish have a very firm consistency,” said veterinarian Sandra Ledang, head of production at the adjacent abattoir.

“That’s because it swims against the current all its life, from the moment it arrives in our facilities until it is slaughtered. It exercises absolutely
every day,” she added.

As populations are expected to increase, with almost 10 billion mouths to feed by 2050, food production needs to be optimised.

While salmon, which is rich in protein, is still a luxury in many places, it is finding new customers among the growing middle class, particularly in Asia.

Matthias Halwart, a senior officer in the fisheries department of the UN’s Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), sees clear benefits to recirculating aquaculture systems (RAS), like those tested in Norway.

“You have fully controlled environment for the fish, a very low water use, a very good disease control, a very efficient land use, you can optimize your feeding strategies and you can have a very good proximity with the market,” Halwart tells AFP.

READ ALSO: Norway fails to agree fishing quote deal with the UK

Proponents say that although land farms require a lot of energy, their proximity to consumers reduces the use of transportation, making them better for the environment.

Land-based farming projects are already spreading around the world and soon salmon now primarily raised in Norwegian, Chilean, Scottish and Canadian waters will also be produced in Japan, Florida or China.

Nordic Aquafarms, the parent company of Fredrikstad Seafoods, is working on two farms in the United States, one in Maine on the east coast, the other in California on the west coast.

The plan is to use Icelandic salmon roe to raise the fish there.

“The idea is to produce locally. No need to fly salmon over the ocean from one continent to another,” Fredriksen said.

Happy fish?

However, production costs are still higher, and land-based salmon farming is currently considered more as a complement than a substitute for sea- or river-based farming.

NGO Compassion in World Farming, which campaigns against intensive factory farming, fears that the quest for profits will come at the expense of animal welfare.

“We estimate that the minimum density necessary for profitability is 50 kilograms per cubic metre of water,” said Lucille Bellegarde, in charge of agri-food affairs for the French branch of the organisation.

But she lamented that the “average density found in existing systems is more like 80 kilograms per cubic metre” — eight times denser than what the NGO recommends.

Fredriksen said these fears are misguided as his farm cares about the welfare of the salmon.

“If the fish are not happy, they don’t grow.”