Intense jellyfish attacks on SalMar’s Norwegian production dampen otherwise solid year

Norwegian fish-farming operation in Froan.

The fourth quarter of 2023 closed out a solid year’s performance for Frøya, Norway-headquartered SalMar, but the period also ended with several of the salmon producer’s facilities in central and northern Norway suffering from string jellyfish attacks.

With the attacks continuing to cause serious impacts to fish welfare into the new year, the company has culled substantial volumes at multiple locations and harvested much of its fish earlier than planned to avoid further issues. 

This has resulted in a 20,000-metric-ton (MT) reduction to SalMar’s 2024 guided harvest volume. Its volume guidance in its other locations remains unchanged at 7,000 MT for SalMar Aker Ocean, 15,000 MT in Iceland, and 37,000 MT in Scotland.

Presenting the company’s Q4 and full-year 2023 report on 15 February, SalMar CEO Frode Arntsen said jellyfish swarms are one of the “severe risk factors” in fish farming, but that it’s rare for them to cause as much harm as they have.

“It has been over 20 years since SalMar experienced a similar jellyfish attack in Norway," he said. "Unfortunately, those who were involved 20 years ago say that the issue doesn’t resolve immediately. It takes some time through the winter, possibly until May, before the jellyfish disappear."

Complicating matters for SalMar, the jellyfish attacks occurred during a period of harsh weather conditions.

“It’s impossible to be out on the farming sites when the wind is at its peak … but something happens in SalMar when such events occur; we feel the responsibility for the job, for the fish, for the environment, for our people, and we feel the urge for improvement,” he said. “All of this together unleashes the extra SalMar power. With tasks solved, improvements begin immediately. The situation [has begun to] look better at several of our locations, and we continue to monitor the situation closely to try to avoid further incidents.”

Regarding SalMar’s financial results, 2023 was a “strong year” thanks in part to the successful integration of its NTS, NRS, and SalmoNor mergers and acquisitions, which took place between the end of 2022 and into 2023, Arntsen said.

Alongside a record high harvest volume of 254,100 MT – an increase of 31 percent year over year – its operational earnings before interest and taxes (EBIT) amounted to almost NOK 8.1 billion (USD 765.7 million, EUR 713.1 million), compared with 2022’s NOK 4.5 billion (USD 425.4 million, EUR 396.2 million).

Due to the positive results and the company’s strong overall financial position, SalMar’s board of directors proposed ... 

Photo courtesy of Haavard Dyroe/Shutterstock

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