Norwegian waters brimming with cod

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This winter’s cod haul in Norway is predicted to break all records, and the Barents Sea is brimming with the fish. The fishing industry, however, fears that without an increase in demand, cod prices may drop, and they have embarked on a global hunt for new consumers.

Norwegian fishing boats are catching lots of cod this winter, and now need more customers for it all. PHOTO: Norwegian Seafood Council

The North East Arctic cod stock, the largest in the world and managed jointly by Norway and Russia, is in extremely good shape and the fishing quotas for the Barents Sea for 2013 have been increased to an historically high 1 million tonnes.

This has lead to a big increase in supply, and representatives from Norway’s fishing industry are now traveling around the world to find new markets for klippfisk (clipfish, dried and salted cod), in order to boost demand for cod worldwide.

Norwegian clipfish has long been considered a great delicacy in Brazil, for example, where it is far more expensive than the finest fillet steak. It’s in high demand, and Brazilians eat it at both Christmas and Easter, preferably purchasing it in small packet sizes. It’s also used in  bacalao, a dish that has a cult-like status in Brazil, Portugal and, exporters hope, many other countries.

There is also heavy promotion and increasing demand for Norwegian clipfish in Portugal, where it’s known as o fiel amigo (“the faithful friend”). It is actually viewed as a good investment there during economic hardship, according to the Norwegian Seafood Council’s website, because it stores well and can be cooked in so many different ways.

The Norwegian Seafood Council is also currently working on the British market, aiming to make cod the most in-demand fish choice for “fish and chips.” It faces stiff competition globally from white fish pollock coming from the USA, and ever-increasing quantities of farmed white fish from China and Vietnam.

Fresh, poached cod remains a much-loved dinner by many in Norway, and is traditionally served on Christmas Eve by many families along the coast, especially in the southern parts of the country (Sørlandet). Terje E. Martinussen, director of the Norwegian Seafood Council, nonetheless worries that Norwegians can take cod for granted, and thinks they should be more proud of it, as they are of salmon. He points out that it was cod that built the country.

“Dried fish is perhaps our oldest export product, and fish from the North had a huge influence on the establishment of cities such as Bergen,” he recently told newspaper Aftenposten.

Views and News from Norway/Elizabeth Lindsay

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