Fishing, one of the world’s oldest industries has grown exponentially since the mid-20th century and is now responsible for feeding almost half the world’s population. This growth has brought millions of people around the world into employment and allowed many countries that may not otherwise be rich in natural resources to benefit from the wealth circulating in the global economy.
However, such growth comes with its own problems and today the industry faces two major issues: the first of which is climate change, which is causing fish stocks to move away from their historical habitats and forcing fleets to travel further out to sea for longer periods of time.
Secondly, and certainly, the most trending topic of the moment, not least following Netflix’s recent ‘Seaspiracy’ documentary, is responsible fishery and sustainability – how do we continue to fish at such industrial levels while ensuring we maintain healthy fish populations and protect our oceans?
The fisheries industry, more than any other, has trailed behind others when it comes to implementing change to really address these issues, despite it being in everyone’s interests to avoid overfishing. And while climate change is an issue far bigger than the fishing industry alone, technological developments in recent years mean real opportunities to promote sustainable practices are more accessible than ever.
From LED lighting that targets specific fish behaviours that effectively programme fishing nets to resolve the issue of bycatch, to geo-tracking, whereby the location of trawlers and vessels is monitored to ensure compliance with regulations designed to protect endangered or protected species and vulnerable habitats, there are more opportunities for fishery businesses to lead the way and step up to these challenges and at the same time, help to ensure the industry, which employs more than 260 million people worldwide, strikes the right balance to sustain its own thriving future.
Norebo Group, one of Russia’s largest vertically integrated fishing companies, is one of these companies that is leading the charge in technological and sustainable development.
Its portfolio includes companies in the North West of the country as well as the Far East. Within its holding structure are 25 companies, that are directly engaged in harvesting, processing, transporting, infrastructure and trading. This allows oversight from catch to distribution, maximising efficiency to reduce waste while also meeting increasing customer demand for traceability and sustainability.
Norebo is a post-soviet success story that was borne out of a tumultuous time, where lawlessness was seemingly the order of the day. Despite the very visible criminal elements that were common to the time, one of Norebo’s co-founders, Vitaly Orlov stayed true to his values and ideals and was successfully able to navigate and influence the fledgling free-market industry in Russia.
Over the past 24 years, it has grown into a leading global business with world-class standards in quality, safety, corporate governance and regulatory compliance and transparency. It is the largest employer and tax-payer in its HQ town of Murmansk and led the charge in bringing the local industry up to full IFRS compliance. Today, the company employs more than 3,000 people with active community programmes to attract the next generation into the industry.
While many won’t recognise the name, the company supplies a large percentage of its hauls to Europe to several well-known household names including Birdseye and McDonalds, with some statistics suggesting that one-fifth of all cod eaten in the UK coming from.
The company’s fleets are using the latest technology to help their practices become more sustainable, including electronic registration of catches and vessel tracking to avoid over-fishing and systems that count all bycatch quicker and more efficiently in order to increase the survival rate of fish before they are released.
Working closely with researchers, scientists and NGO’s, which includes joining the World Wildlife Fund, Global Sustainable Seafood Initiative and Marine Stewardship Council, Norebo has fully embraced sustainability at the heart of all its operations. The company being a driving force in many projects frequently works closely with other fleets to ensure the coordination of trawlers in complying with scientific advice to ensure the practices of one fleet does not undermine the efforts of others in protecting marine habitats.
For Norebo, future commercial success is very much dependent on ecological preservation. Seafood is more than just a food source for many, it’s a part of their culture and traditions, and ensuring that future generations do not miss out, is what fishing is really all about.