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North Atlantic Seafood Forum: European Outlook

NORWAY - Addressing delegates at the North Atlantic Seafood Forum last week major seafood companies lined up to forecast where they are heading.

Managing Director of Marine Harvest, Marit Solberd said that things were looking up for the salmon industry.

"We have recovered from the disastrous period, are back in profit, prices are at an all-time high, and we are reaching the total allowable biomass limit in Norway," he said.

Notable advances include a big jump in fillet production, US imports have doubled to 50,000 tonnes, and there are cost savings in not transporting the whole fish.

Marine Harvest has built a specialised salmon terminal at the Oslo airport, and its plants in Miami and Los Angeles can 30,000 tonnes a year.

"We see a good market for the next two years, and demand in the recession remains strong".

Although Norway- based the North Atlantic Seafood Forum is committed to covering the whole North Atlantic Resource area, and so there was much interest in the presentation by Cooke Aquaculture of Canada.

Cooke’s Len Stewart described a billion-dollar Canadian industry that export 85 per cent of production, and employs 16,000 workers.

Moving East from Atlantic Canada to Iceland, HB Grandi CEO Eggert Gudmundsson reminded us that the last time he spoke in Oslo, there were some jokes made about bankers. "Not today, though."

Fishing is Iceland’s lifeline at present, making up 42 per cent of the economy. For the future, he sees growth as limited, feels that the politicians are fiddling with the management system: "The Government is just cutting the cake when they should be baking it." He wants to see more and better fisheries research, not just for individual species, but on their interaction.

Poland is an important and fast-growing market for seafood, and home to the world’s biggest salmon smoker, Morpol. John-Paul McGinley explained that they import 80,000 tonnes annually, 15 per cent of all Norway’s exports to the EU – and this has been achieved in just twelve years. Unusually, Morpol designs and builds all its own processing machinery, with a team of 200 engineers, and is finding more and more ways of presenting smoked salmon to the consumer. "Value-added is more than just cutting fish".

The UK’s Findus Group is a giant, and 70 per cent of its sales are seafood products. New CEO Chris Britton is a branding expert, his mantra is "The Consumer is King", and on taking up post he rapidly commissioned a consumer attitude survey – with some surprising results.

Health benefits are now widely understood, but 95 per cent of those polled thought that fish is better value then chicken or meat. Frozen and chilled is gaining market share on fresh, good news for Findus, but in the recession per capita consumption is decreasing in Ireland, Portugal and Spain. He believes that big producers should be pro-active in pushing for more MSC-certified fisheries.

Peter Dill of Deutsche See is passionate about ending the ‘immoral’ EU discard policy, and again drove home his message from the podium – that EU Governments must act, and fast fast.

"Why must they take three or four years to achieve zero discards? It’s crazy". Mr Dill thinks that consumers should have maximum information, even having specific catch areas on labelling, and has set up a database which others can share.

Opening the final panel discussion, Jason Clay of the World Wildlife Fund gave a sobering warning that sustainability is going to be vital, and compulsory. He predicts that by 2050 farmed fish will overtake poultry, because it takes half the feed to produce the same amount of meat.

the Fish Site Editor

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