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Grieg Seafood confident despite struggle

SHETLAND’s largest salmon producer Grieg Seafood has experienced a difficult start to the year due to the high cost of disease treatment and low harvesting figures.

Last year, the Gremista-based company was forced to close its smokehouse after Tesco withdrew from stocking the WildWater smoked salmon range.

The company has also mothballed its filleting department because of a lack of fish.

Managing director Sigurd Pettersen said a core staff of 50 was kept busy in the processing factory gutting and packaging salmon.

On Monday, the company’s headquarters in Bergen said Grieg Seafood was experiencing “high cost on harvested fish in the company’s European regions”.

Pettersen added the company’s standards for sealice treatment plus damage done to fish affected by algal bloom at the Scottish west coast had contributed to a drop in profitability.

Meanwhile, the company’s own fish farms have taken delivery of the first smolts produced at the new Girlsta hatchery.

Pettersen said: “The volumes in Shetland are down because of the site structure we have. Every second year our volumes will drop because we should have more farming sites to balance that.

“The quantities that come out of the water here in Shetland really do not justify keeping the smoking and filleting department open.

“Sea lice is a challenge everywhere, but the combination with algae blooms which damage the gills of the fish and sea lice was a complication we could have done without.”

But he said the outlook for the rest of the year was more positive – although he was unable to say when the company might be in a position to take on more staff.

“What fish we have in the sea is growing very well. Last week we had our first shipment of smolts from the new hatchery, probably the best smolts we ever have had delivered to our sites up here,” Pettersen added.