While those who deliver fish to the receptions have good days, the industry is struggling on land.
Two weeks ago, the disappointing news came that the cornerstone company Træna Seafood AS announced a complete halt in the reception of fish. The reception receives fish fires elsewhere on the Helgeland coast, and several hundred fishermen are affected.
With an average annual salary of 900,000 kroner is it profitable to be a fisherman in Norway. If, on the other hand, you work at a fish reception on land, you earn less than half as much.
– There is no doubt that there is a skewed distribution between the catch link and industry in the country.
This is what Ole Olsen says, who is the general manager of SUFI AS, which owns a fish reception in Lofoten and one in Finnmark.
But that the wage gap is so large is not necessarily unfair, he believes.
– Those who work on land have other working time arrangements, which means that they can be close to the family. Those who work at sea are compensated for longer periods at sea, he believes.
He himself enjoys a job on land.
– It is a rewarding job. We provide local activity and value creation along the coast.
Nevertheless, he believes that the authority has a responsibility to facilitate that the industry on land can also make money.
– But it must be done by increasing the industry’s bargaining power and conditions out in the fields.
The fishermen stood with hats in their hands
We really have to go back to the beginning of the last century to understand what this case is about. At that time, poor fishermen stood with hats in their hands in the meeting with landowners, who exploited them grossly.
In 1938, the Raw Fish Act was introduced. The law, which was called the fishermen’s constitution, gave fishermen the right to decide for themselves the minimum price for the fish.
Since then, the Raw Fish Act has been under attack from several quarters. But it would be 76 years before the law was changed.
On 1 January 2014, the Act was amended to the Fish Sales Act. The purpose of the new law was to have a more equal distribution between the various links in the fishing industry.
A majority in the Storting was the only one if the margins should be more evenly distributed between those who fish the fish and those who receive it on land and will run industry.
But this was not the case, according to the organization Seafood Norway, which organizes the fishing industry on land.
An overview of profitability in various fisheries and in different parts of the fishing industry, shows that the fishing industry is at around zero, while the profitability of fishermen who live on cod and saithe has shot up in recent years.
Lost in the district court
Seafood Norway believes that the skewed distribution shows that fishermen and sales teams are not interested in taking into account the fishing industry and the overall national value creation.
Earlier this year, Seafood Norway took some of the big sales teams to court. But the organization lost the case against the Herring Team in Bergen District Court.
There, the court went so far as to say that consideration for the fishing industry is subordinate.
Geir Ove Ystmark, who is top manager in Seafood Norway, believes that the ruling shows that the law from 2014 in practice does not work as it should.
– The verdict is a violation of all political promises. We believe it is a political responsibility to ensure that this law is practiced as intended, says Ystmark.
Therefore, Seafood Norway calls three former ministers into the witness box when appeals will be heard in the Gulating Court of Appeal in May next year.
He wants answers to why the fishermen run away with the most money.
One of those who will be in the witness box is outgoing Minister of Defense Frank Bakke-Jensen (H), who will soon be the new director of fisheries. In 2013, he was central in the work on the new law.
– I naturally meet the court until that is what the court wants, and will familiarize myself well with our political remarks and proposals from that time, he says.
Former Minister of Fisheries Lisbeth Berg-Hansen (Labor Party), who took the initiative to change the old Raw Fish Act, will also explain herself in court.
Berg-Hansen’s successor Elisabeth Aspaker will also be called as a witness. She does not want to comment on the case to NRK.
If Seafood Norway goes to a new pressure in court, it will have major consequences for the Norwegian fishing industry, according to Ystmark.
– In practice, this will mean that less fish will be processed in Norway, and more fish and seafood will be sent out of the country. This means greater value creation outside Norway’s borders.
Ystmark is also aware that a lawsuit can be avoided.
– But then the new government must take action and correct the course so that the fishing industry along our coast has a future.
– Have the fishermen become the new owners?
– The fishermen have good profitability, and I treat them to it. But the balance of power has been completely turned upside down, says Geir Ove Ystmark.
Regarding the background to the trial, he points out:
– The Norwegian Herring Sales Association, which has a monopoly on all trade in herring fish, requires Norwegian industry to publish market information that Seafood Norway believes is distorting competition. This weakens the Norwegian industry in the face of our foreign competitors. It’s like playing poker with open cards while your opponent holds you to his chest, says Ystmark.
The fishermen: – The law works well
Leader Kjell Ingebrigtsen of the Norwegian Fishermen’s Association will not comment on the trial, but he believes the new law works well.
– The minimum price is set in line that I can use to pay. In the vast majority of cases, we have a good collaboration with the purchasing corps. But that earnings can be better, everyone wants, whether we are in the boat or on land.
– So it’s okay that fishermen earn twice as much as those who work on land?
– The fishermen have carried out a reorganization of the fleet which has cost them dearly. There have been far fewer fishermen than before. We now have good earnings, and we see that young people want to become fishermen. We should be proud of that, says Ingebrigtsen.