Norway's success in aquaculture has helped it become the world's largest exporter of seafood. Having displaced such leaders as the mainland and Thailand from the top spot, Rolf Willy Hansen, the Norwegian consul-general in Hong Kong, said he would like to see his countrymen capitalise further on their achievements by expanding their operations in Asia Pacific. Fishing has long been a staple of the Norwegian economy and the country is a world leader in fish farming. With more than 21,000 kilometres of coastline, the icy-cold waters of the North Sea provide an ideal climate for more than 700 fish farms. In all, Norway exported 1,948,091 tonnes of fish last year, valued at 28.1 billion kroner (about HK$24.166 billion). The country has also retained its position as the SAR's top supplier of Atlantic salmon with more than 5.4 million kilograms of the fish, valued at more than HK$235 million, being exported last year. Mr Hansen said within the next 40 or 50 years, the country's vast oil reserves would likely run out and it was important for Norway to increase its fish farming activities, both domestically and globally, to maintain its economic growth. According to the Norwegian Trade Council, the worldwide catch of fish peaked at 86 million tonnes in 1989 and has since declined. Fish farms, which have been growing at a worldwide rate of 15 per cent, offer a dependable supply to supplement the burden placed on natural stock. The council estimates that within 50 years, global aquaculture production will surpass the fishing catch total. 'Salmon is easily our most visible export and if you have a [export] market that big, farming is necessary as it ensures the flow of products,' Mr Hansen said. 'Norwegian companies have the expertise and they can apply their know-how to the farming of other species around the world.' He pointed to Malaysia as an example where Norwegian re searchers have helped to introduce advanced aquaculture systems near Penang. The new farms are expected to yield 600,000 tonnes of fish by 2010. 'Hong Kong is a small market [for fish farming] but the mainland presents some interesting opportunities. Norwegian researchers have developed what they call an 'Asian fish' in the Philippines which has been genetically improved by breeding to grow much faster,' Mr Hansen said. 'Right now they are testing the fish in saltwater and it could be a promising source of food and protein in the long run. It is happening to some extent in the mainland already. We have the expertise to develop the cages, train the people to run [the farms] properly in feeding and in providing protection against sickness. It is an interesting sector and well suited to Asia.' Mr Hansen said he was also trying to convince Energos, an environmental company which turns household waste into energy, to set up in Hong Kong. 'This is an interesting company which is ideally suited for Hong Kong,' he said. 'They have developed a technology for automatically adjusting the [burning] temperature in accordance with what type of waste it is. 'Right now they are concentrating on Europe. They said they will have a look at Asia next year and that sounds promising given the compact size of Hong Kong.'