Seafood industry hooks more profits

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Seafood producers in Norway will be sailing into the New Year with solid balance sheets, high salaries and, in at least one case, extraordinary bonuses. One young skipper of a fishing boat in Northern Norway earns more than the prime minister.

Fishing boats like those here at Svolvær in Lofoten are drawing up profits as well as fish. PHOTO: newsinenglish.no

“Business has been very good, especially the last two years,” Line Ellingsen of the family-owned Ellingsen Seafood on Lofoten told Norwegian Broadcasting (NRK) just before the Christmas holidays. So good, that she decided to share the company’s surplus with those who helped create it: Ellingsen’s employees.

Every single one of them received NOK 100,000 in bonus this Christmas, equal to around USD 11,500 at current exchange rates. Ellingsen told local newspaper Bladet Vesterålen that she thinks it’s nice to share profits with the company’s workers.

“We have had very good operations in 2018, we have few problems and have worked hard to prevent them,” Ellingsen said. “That has yielded results that we now pass out as a Christmas bonus.” She said she hoped workers were satisfied, “and we hope they’re proud to be working for us.” Ellingsen Seafood has around 100 employees and operations in six municipalities in Nordland County: Flakstad, Vågan, Tjeldsund, Hadsel, Lødingen and Tysfjord.

Ellingsen is far from the only seafood and fishing operation in Norway that’s doing well. NRK also reported how 19-year-old Benn-Ole Stensvold of Nordland has secured his own fishing quotas and is doing well enough to invest NOK 4.5 million in a fishing boat.

“It’s been a good year,” Stensvold told NRK. He’s been fishing professionally for two years and Norway’s fishing organization, Norges Råfisklag, is doing well, too, with new financial figures showing that it’s never done so well as in 2018. The value of the catch of wild fish off the coast of Northern Norway exceeded NOK 12.5 billion, up early 10 percent over last year. Cod makes up the most important part of the catch, and 60 percent of its total value, while halibut, haddock and pollack have been plentiful in Norwegian waters.

Record-high cod prices have meant that at least one fishing boat skipper earns far more than Prime Minister Erna Solberg. Newspaper Dagens Næringsliv (DN) reported that Kyrre Hanssen earned NOK 2.5 million this year. Solberg earns NOK 1.67 million a year.

Hanssen and his colleagues work hard, though, and under rough conditions. His trawler had just returned from the waters around the Arctic island of Bjørnøya, often working through the night in “terrible” weather with swells up to six meters high. All those on board need to specially adjust the mattresses on their bunks so that they don’t roll out when they’re off duty and able to sleep. The record prices Hanssen is getting for cod, though, up to NOK 38 per kilo this past week, makes it all worthwhile.

Norway’s weak currency, the krone, also plays an important role in making Norwegian seafood more competitive in markets abroad. “We’ve also had a good year for shrimp and hyse (haddock),” Svein Ole Haugland, leader of Norges Råfisklag, told NRK. “A weak krone is positive for a business where 95 percent of our product is exported out of the country.”

Roger Hansen, who fishes professionally around the North Cape, agreed that the seafood business is very strong indeed at present. “We remember when our prices for cod were NOK 11 (per kilo) and now they’re well over NOK 30,” Hansen told NRK. “We have to take care of the good times now, because the bad times come sooner or later.”

newsinenglish.no/Nina Berglund