The Nordic countries are an important supplier of various flatfish species to markets in Europe, the US and Asia. These species include for example European plaice, American plaice, dab, witch, lemon sole, common sole, halibut, Greenland halibut, megrim, turbot / brill and more. These are all valuable and nutritious species; and the final products are highly sought after by demanding markets. However, there are significant challenges that the Nordic flatfish sector is facing. The supply is subject to severe fluctuations and seasonality, and each supplier has a very small share of the total supply. The processing, including filleting and other value adding, is largely done outside of the Nordic countries, for example in UK, Netherlands, Germany and Poland. This has resulted in a relatively small part of the final product value being paid to the Nordic fishermen.
One of the challenges the Nordic flatfish sector is facing is the lack of transparency within the flatfish value chains, with regards to where processing takes place, what is produced, where do the products go, where is the added value taking place etc. There might potentially be hidden opportunities for the Nordic sector to generate more value from the flatfish resources, if a better overview of the value chains is provided and if the sector gets together in solving some of the common challenges.
The Nordic Flatfish project was initiated in 2019 to address this, by analyzing some key Nordic Flatfish value chains, with the purpose of increasing transparency within the sector, identifying opportunities and facilitating networking. The hope was that this work would lead to increased cooperation between stakeholders in Nordic flatfish value chains, contribute to increased competitiveness and potentially a common strategic planning by Nordic authorities and/or industry.
The Nordic Flatfish project was funded by AG-fisk of the Nordic Council of Ministers. The project partners included research and industry representatives from four Nordic countries (Iceland, Denmark, Greenland and Norway), as well as from three countries (Netherlands, UK and France) that are important stakeholders in the Nordic flatfish value chains.
The Nordic Flatfish project had two major deliverables / outputs:
- Facilitation of a workshop on the Nordic Flatfish sector. This workshop was held in Copenhagen 29-30 October 2019. The main results of the workshop were published on the project webpage here.
- Publication of a TemaNord report on the Nordic Flatfish sector, providing information on the value chains and identifying if / where improvements can be made. The report is available here.
The overall results of the project showed that the Nordic countries represent 5% of global flatfish supplies and has a significant share in total supply of six species, of which there are only two species (Greenland halibut and European plaice) that can be considered to be of any major importance with respect to volume and value. The project's final report therefore focuses on these two species, as well as on sole (European sole and lemon sole) which are important for some Nordic fleet sections.
The report shows that there are similarities in the value chains of place and sole. The fish are caught largely in the Northern part of Europe and the consumption takes place in Europe, mainly in the Netherlands, Italy and Germany. The main intermediary actor in the value chains between supply and consumption is the Netherlands; they act as a supplier, importer, processor and exporter as well as being a large consumer of the fish. Greenland halibut has however a completely different value chain to that of plaice and common sole. The fish is caught in the high north Atlantic and the main suppliers are the Nordic countries Greenland (Denmark), Iceland, Faroe Islands and Norway as well as Russia and Canada. The main market is Asia, not Europe.
Due to the limited share of the Nordic countries in total European and global supply of flatfish, the extremely strong position of the Dutch industry within European flatfish value chains, and seemingly modest profit margins throughout these value chains; it is difficult so see how increased Nordic cooperation could contribute to further value creation for the Nordic seafood sector. The exception is that there might be opportunities for a Nordic cooperation between Denmark and Iceland in processing and marketing of plaice, as these countries are a relatively large global suppliers with a 30% share of the supply, and the average prices for whole plaice in Iceland is low compared to mainland Europe.
The Nordic Flatfish project has now come to an end. What the project has delivered is a network of stakeholders across the Nordic countries and N-Europe that are willing to cooperate and share knowledge. The project has also delivered a report that has increased transparency within the Nordic flatfish value chains, providing important information on supplies and opportunities for improvement within the value chains.
The partners in the project and contact persons are:
- Matís ohf. – Jónas R. Viðarsson (Iceland) project coordinator firstname.lastname@example.org
- DTU Aqua – Erling Larsen (Denmark)
- University of Copenhagen / IFRO – Max Nilsen (Denmark)
- Nofima – John Isaksen (Norway)
- Framian – Pavel Salz (Netherlands)
- Fisheries Iceland (SFS) – Viðar Engilbertsson (Iceland)
- Danish Fisheries Association – Henrik Lund (Denmark)
- Humber Seafood Institute / Grimsby Fish Merchants Association – Simon Dwyer (UK)
- Atlantic Fresh Europe – Örn Eyfjörður (France)
- KNAPK – Tønnes Berthelsen (Greenland)