How can we measure sustainable development along the coast?

Science and Society

The already high demand for marine resources is growing. Change is inevitable both for the natural environment and for communities along the coast. That is why researchers at the Fram Centre have developed the Coastal Barometer.

By: Juliet Landrø // Norwegian Institute for Nature Research

The Coastal Barometer is a tool that can be used by local communities, interest groups and decision-makers in northern Norwegian coastal municipalities to check the health of their coastal and marine ecosystems.

Researchers from six different research institutions with expertise in economics, sustainability, fisheries science, and marine ecology have collaborated with local actors and interest groups. This has resulted in a set of nine specific indicators: Clean Oceans, Biodiversity, Food Production, Marine Products, Local Fisheries, Sense of Place, Tourism, Carbon Storage, and Economy and Employment.

A tool for municipal administration

The goal is for the Coastal Barometer to be a specific tool that municipalities and administrators can use to assess how sustainable their municipality is in terms of the indicators listed above. These target areas, or topics, are based on the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals and national policy.

Measure sustainable food production?

Ocean-based food production is important for trade and industry, employment, the economy, and sustainability along the Norwegian coast. The Coastal Barometer can also measure sustainable food production from aquaculture.

Per Fauchald, manager of the Coastal Barometer project. Photo: Juliet Landrø / Norwegian Institute for Nature Research. Front photo: Helge M. Markusson / Fram Centre.

“Feed is the most important resource in fish farming, and sustainable use of feed is a key sub-goal that is included in the calculations,” says project manager Per Fauchald, who is a researcher at the Norwegian Institute for Nature Research (NINA).

Sustainable feed use is defined as follows: For full sustainability, there should be no net loss of nutrients that could otherwise have been used for human consumption, and all the feed ingredients should be sustainably produced.

“We created an equation that calculates this, then we used data on feed consumption and production, and data on nutritional content in the feed ingredients and salmon product to calculate the sub-indicator for all of the aquaculture municipalities located in northern Norway,” he says.

Similarly, the researchers calculated sub-indicators for escaping fish, salmon lice, and local pollution, and entered them into the equation to calculate sustainable food production from aquaculture at a municipal level.

As a result, it provides a measurement showing the percentage of food production that is sustainable.

“The great thing about this indicator is that it specifically defines and measures sustainability, and one can therefore compare sustainable food production between different companies and areas, and between different production systems and sectors,” says Fauchald.

“Since they have defined the sub-indicators related to sustainability, they can also investigate what is most important, and therefore give advice on what to prioritise in order to increase overall sustainability,” says Fauchald.

The project is funded by the Research Council of Norway, FRAM – the High North Research Centre for Climate and the Environment, and the Fram Centre Flagship called Environmental impacts of industrial activity in the north (MIKON).