During the last 20 years there has been an interesting development of the Nordic fish farming, with regard to the feeding and farming technology and to the increase in production quantities. During the period 1974-1994 the production increased from 15,800 to about 250,000 tonnes/year. In 1974 the major part of the production was in Denmark, and in 1994 the major part was in Norway. The nutrient impact of fish farming on surrounding sea areas is mainly a function of the feed coefficient, the feed composition and metabolic processes in the fish. The comprehensive development of the feed composition and the feeding technology has resulted in reduced load of unmetabolized nutrients from fish farms, calculated per tonne fish produced. In 1974 the mean Nordic feed coefficient was 2.08 and in 1994 the coefficient was 1.25. Feed coefficients of 1.0-1.1 are now reported for Danish and Norwegian freshwater and marine fish farms. The nitrogen (N) and phosphorus (P) content of the feed has decreased, in addition the quality of the nutrient substances in the feed has changed, especially for N. The N content has decreased from 7.8 to 6.8% during the period 1974-1994 and the content of P has decreased from 1.7 to 0.7% during the same period. This development of the feed coefficient and the feed composition has resulted in a present load from a typical Nordic fish farm of 55 kg N and 4.8 kg P/t fish produced. The figures for 1974 were 132 kg N and 31 kg P/t fish produced.

The Nordic fish farming production in 1994 resulted in a load of about 13,750 t N and about 1,200 t P on the actual recipients. The load from the Swedish, Finnish and Danish fish farming operations, with the Baltic Sea and the Skagerrak as the recipients, is negligible in comparison with other pollution sources. The quantities of N and P from the fish farming are equal to 0.5% of the atmospheric deposition on the sea surface and 3% of the atmospheric P load. Norwegian, Icelandic and the Faroe Islands fish farming operations are using the North Sea and the Norwegian Sea as the recipients. However, the nutrient load from single fish farms in certain coastal and inland water bodies can be significant and must be considered in the impact assessment together with other sources.