The sick fjord


Is Sørfjorden’s problems caused by seabass farming? We collected all available data and researched all the information we could get our hands on.

We discovered that there was no easy answer. The problems in Sørfjorden were many. Declining oxygen levels, a seabass farm that were closed due to the bottom conditions, fish sickness so severe that a fire gate was established to protect other fish farms and the endangered Vosso-salmon. We feared that the complexity would throw our readers off. We needed to help them through the story.

We found an incident that occurred while a wellboat were de-licing seabass at the farm furthest inside the fjord. This gave us the idea to structure our story as a journey through the fjord. Addressing issues as they occurred on our journey. The incident also gave our story a dramatic start. We used the AIS track of the wellboat to present the fjord. Throughout the journey we used maps styled as marine charts to show important locations.


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Journalist Atle Andersson was present at a talk about sustainable growth in the salmon farms industry at the University of Bergen. One of the speakers, Tom Pedersen of the County Governor, held a lecture on the environmental problems surrounding Bergen in general, and about Sørfjorden south of Osterøy, in particular. He concluded that the root cause for the the problems in Sørfjorden was the seabass farms in the fjord.

What also makes Sørfjorden of special interest is that it’s the gateway to some of Norway’s national salmon fjords. The endangered Vosso salmon needs to pass through Sørfjorden both after it’s hatched and when it wants to mate. It is also the fjord in Norway with the highest density of aquaculture farms.


Locations of the seabass farms from Directorate of Fisheries and their WFS-service. Two different data sets: active locations and deleted. Water quality from the County Governor of Hordaland. FOIA requests for MOM B and MOM C examinations from the Directorate of Fisheries. AIS-data from the Coastal Administration, reports on disease and mortality from the National Food Safety Authority. Also here we got the description of the incident we used as our intro.

The data from Directorate of Fisheries is openly accessible through their WFS service. Data from the others came through FOIA requests. We went after as much data as we could find about each seabass farm location. We organized the data in our own database and we built our own tool to harvest data and keep control of sources.


Two journalists, two data journalist/news developers, two project leaders. The work went on for a period of three weeks


The municipality council in Osterøy is now working on strict environmental regulations for future seabass farms and is actively trying to attract new commercial partners in the aquaculture sector with zero-emission of pollutants and potential dangerous substances into the marine environment.


We could not use any of our existing article formats, so we needed to write our own. Also our CMS were not suited for the structure we wanted our story to have, so we needed to have an alternate solution. We also knew from experience that there would be a lot of rearranging of the elements and text editing until deadline.

So we had to build our own presentation solution using Google docs for input, ArchieML for structure and React.js for presentation. This gave us new issues, since we wanted to use D3 for our visualizations. We had to find a way that D3 and React could function well together.

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