The main focus of the Norwegian Seafood Export Council (NSEC) is to promote the first-class quality and taste of Norwegian seafood all over the world, with the information available in over a dozen languages on www.seafood.no. And the good word has undoubtedly spread – no less than 15 different countries purchased more than NOK 1 billion of the country’s seafood in 2006. In fact, 27 million meals with Norwegian seafood are enjoyed all over the world every single day. With this in mind, it is not a stretch of the imagination to say that fish is to Norway as wine is to France and as pasta is to Italy.
In 2006 Norway exported NOK 35.6 billion of seafood, a new record and an increase of NOK 3.6 billion from the year before. Growth was especially strong in Europe, with eight of Norway’s 10 largest customers hailing from the European Union (EU). Norway dominates the seafood export market to Europe, exporting six times more seafood than the number-two country in this category.
Playing main roles in this export increase are salmon and cod, with salmon export leading the way with NOK 17.1 billion sales in 2006, an increase of NOK 3.5 billion from the year before. Cod exports totalled an impressive NOK 10 billion in 2006, compared to NOK 8.7 billion in 2005. Increased demand and prices, continued flexibility in delivery, and the traditional excellent quality of Norwegian seafood has set the stage for this positive trend, pointing the way towards another record year in 2007.
From the richest fishing areas, the clean taste of Norwegian seafood is exported to over 150 countries.
Perhaps no seafood is better known worldwide than the Norwegian salmon
The EU maintains its status as Norway’s most important salmon target market, importing NOK 12.9 billion in 2006. In fact, since 1999, Norwegian exports of salmon to the EU have increased by 75%, the main reason being the country’s ability to deliver fresh fish to its customers in the region.
The rest of the world is continuing to discover the joys of salmon from the clear, cold waters of Norway, with record exports in 2006 to countries such as South Africa (78% increase), Egypt (88% increase) and the United Arab Republic (48% increase).
Something for Everyone
The high quality and rich diversity of Norwegian seafood makes it a natural partner for local food traditions and a wide range of recipes worldwide. Examples of this include the popularity of Norwegian salmon in Japanese sushi, the importance of Norwegian clipfish in Spanish, Portuguese and Greek dishes, and the preference for Norwegian herring in Poland – a country in which 30% of the population eats the fish at least one time per week.
In addition, it is both a cultural and economic curiosity that 90% of all dried fish (stockfish) from the mid-Norwegian region of Lofoten is exported to Italy for autumn festivals celebrating “Stoccafisso di Norwegia”.
The Numbers Say it All
Special markets for Norwegian seafood translate into good business. One prime example of this is Portugal, which accounts for 60% of the total clipfish export of NOK 2.8 billion. Portugal was also Norway’s most important market for cod in total, followed by Denmark and Italy. Exports of saithe clipfish totalled NOK 936 million, the highest export value ever recorded for this product. The greatest export growth here took place in Brazil and Congo.
Trout continued to whet tastebuds in 2006, particularly in countries such as Russia and Japan. Herring and mackerel also held their own for the year despite lower prices worldwide, with herring recording NOK 3 billion in exports and mackerel exports weighing in at NOK 1.7 billion. In total, pelagic fish registered a total export of NOK 5.5 billion, slightly less than the record year of 2005.
Accountability & the Environment
Norwegians pride themselves on doing things in the correct manner, and the country’s seafood industry upholds this tradition. The industry knows the importance of compliance to the strictest health and hygiene requirements, while adapting sustainable and environmentally friendly production methods. Nothing less than the best is good enough for Norway and its customers with regards to traceability, quality assurance, environmental certification and safety.
Traceability & Accountability
Seafood exporting countries face challenges in the open international market, one characterized by progressively fewer – but larger volume – customers who place stricter demands on the products they purchase. This necessitates a high level of documentation and traceability from harvest to the product as it reaches the final consumer.
This traceability is multi-dimensional, one aspect taking into account environmental factors related to responsible and controlled catch based on defined quotas, using systems that document and track the fish. Another is to document specific quality factors related to salmon and trout fish farming in a secure process that tracks all elements of the fish production process.
The goal of these traceability activities is aimed towards establishing an international standard covering all stages up until the product reaches the consumer. To achieve this, the Norwegian fishing industry has initiated a tracking system based on the Tracefish and TraceCore XML traceability standards. This project will be integrated into activities related to several species, including white fish, pelagic fish and salmon.
The SKREI® Quality Assurance Initiative
The NSEC spreads the word that the best seafood comes from Norway, and one major initiative being undertaken has been the development and marketing of new quality standards related to the mature coldwater cod – the skrei.
Once each year during the months of January, February and March, the Norwegian coastline becomes the scene for one of nature’s most magnificent events. Out of the enormous feeding waters of the northern Barents Sea, migrating codfish come in the millions, heading for their spawning ground along the wintry coast of Norway to carry their species into the future.
All Norwegian Arctic cod marked with the SKREI® brand are packed according to a highly defined grade label standard. The brand assures that the fish used are true Norwegian Arctic cod, full-grown and of spawning age (of the species Gadus morhua). The fish are only to be caught during the winter season – from the first day of January until the last day of April – in the traditional spawning grounds along the northern Norwegian coastline.
The SKREI® brand guarantees the best quality product and is a result of an initiative from the NSEC, developed by a committee comprised of representatives of Norwegian fishermen, producers and exporters. The goal has been to produce a strict Norwegian standard intended to promote a clear perception of SKREI® as a top quality product.
This official quality standard for SKREI® was ready at the start of the 2006 fishing season. It is the first to be used in a new series of grade labelling for Norwegian seafood products, and is supported by documentation, guidelines and directives that cover all aspects of skrei production – from the condition and exact species of the fish upon catch within specific areas and times, to the preparation, packaging, transportation and marketing processes.
From sushi in Japan to clipfish in Brazil, 27 million Norwegian seafood meals are enjoyed every day.
Skrei is a Norwegian delicacy enhancing recipes all over the world
It takes more than quality, clean products to satisfy – the world market needs to be informed that fish are legally caught and come from stocks that are harvested in a sustainable manner. In recent years, the Norwegian fishing industry has become aware of increasing demands to provide concrete evidence that the products offered come from fish stocks that are managed in a sustainable way.
The Norwegian fishing industry’s response is to become the leader in the sustainable management of legally caught fish, taking action to satisfy the market’s need for information and documentation in this area with a two-part information strategy:
- A system will be established to document that Norwegian seafood has been caught legally, and that Norwegian fish resources are managed in a sustainable way in cooperation with a third-party certification agency. The assessment is based on criteria from the FAO “Code of Conduct for Responsible Fisheries”, with a key measure being traceability systems which will ensure that products come from legally caught fish from sustainable stocks.
- The second part of the strategy is to facilitate high credibility, transparency and documentation regarding Norwegian sustainable fisheries management. An application has been submitted for MSC (Marine Stewardship Council) certification of Norwegian saithe, and the Norwegian fisheries industry will continuously assess the use of third-party certification for Norwegian fish stocks.
The easily found portal www.fisheries.no provides continuously updated information and documentation regarding the fish stocks as well as Norwegian fisheries management.
Transparency & Safety
Consumers and industries around the world are becoming more aware of the need for food safety measures and information. In order to meet this demand, Norway has developed a complete system dedicated to an open approach to safety information.
Seafood is the second-largest export industry (trailing only oil) in Norway, warranting – and receiving – attention at the highest levels. Together with the Ministry of Fisheries at the top of the governing structure, a wide range of public and private organizations work together systematically to ensure that top levels of safety are observed and used in all elements of the seafood and fishing industry.
In 2004, Norway established a new governmental body – the Norwegian Food Safety Authority (NFSA). The NFSA brings together all different aspects of the production chain – from the sea to the dining table. This food safety system includes:
- Developing regulations and ensuring compliance (Norwegian Ministry of Fisheries and Coastal Affairs )
- Implementing regulations – food safety from sea to fork (Norwegian Food Safety Authority)
- Inspection and regulation of the fisheries (Norwegian Directorate of Fisheries)
- Risk assessment (National Institute of Nutrition and Seafood Research)
- Managing safety information in the market (Norwegian Seafood Export Council)
This broad support, combined with Norway’s rich seafood resources, sends a strong signal: join the 27 million other people worldwide who will enjoy a Norwegian seafood meal today.