In Norway, respect for sea runs deep


Fiona Robinson, SeaFood Business associate publisher and editor

Published on
March 31, 2010

I recently returned from a media trip to Norway sponsored by the Norwegian Seafood Export Council that gave food writers and chefs a “farm to fork” experience. I can now say that after enduring eight plane legs (roundtrip), it was worth all of the airport security checks and exhaustion to see the country and its seafood harvest and production.

While I have written and edited articles about seafood for many years (13, but who’s counting?), it’s an eye-opener to deal with writers who haven’t covered fisheries or the aquaculture industry whatsoever. There were a few points during the week when I recognized the “glazed over” look of writers trying to comprehend a new topic for the first time. For the most part, the “glazed” moments were few and far between, as our hosts had us eating a lot, which any food writer can grasp.

While there was something to learn at every meal, one of the more memorable ones was at Cornelius Restaurant, situated on the island of Bjorøy off Bergen. We were greeted by Alf Roald Sætre, a third-generation shellfish farmer who has worked in the seafood business in Norway and the United States since 1975. Sætre scooped scallops out of a holding tank as we arrived, and proceeded to shuck and serve them live, followed by sea urchin. He was a good storyteller, and will forever be remembered by those in attendance as the “Seafood Dundee” of Norway, a la the famous Crocodile Dundee movie of 1986. Putting his humorous anecdotes aside, Sætre’s story is one filled with great respect for the sea and wonderful bounty it produces for consumers.

The same theme of respect was repeated later in the week by Arne Sorvig, VP of strategic marketing for Marine Harvest. He gave us a tour of a salmon hatchery, farm and processing plant, as well as a halibut farm. He repeated the topic of husbandry — the respect needed to produce healthy fish and monitoring the water source they are raised in, from broodstock all the way to harvest.

The last education element in the trip was to the Gastronomisk Institutt (Culinary Institute of Norway) in Stavanger. Executive Chef Daniél Rougé Madsen and his commis prepared for the group six courses that represented the typical flavors found in a Nordic meal. One of the modern preparations included Pine Smoked Salmon with egg yoke confit, cauliflower, salmon caviar, horseradish and deep-fried rye bread.

“You need to treat seafood [in the kitchen] with the same respect as a salmon farmer has done while raising it,” Madsen said while skinning and filleting a whole salmon prior to the meal, showing how each cut of the salmon can be used.

Viewing the fish in the cold waters of Norway’s fjords, and then to see it presented on a plate the same day, was a good reminder of that respect set in motion. That same consideration of the animal and its livelihood should be determined with every fishery, whether wild or farmed, Norway and beyond. Hopefully, the other participants in the group walked away with the same message.

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