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Pelagia, Nergård CEOs: Barents Sea capelin quota helps stabilize supplies to EU, Asian markets

After two years of zero quota and struggles accessing Icelandic resources, the 2018 supply will be a welcome additional volume for targeting key markets, the top executives told IntraFish.

Norwegian pelagic industry players are welcoming next year's opening of the Barents Sea capelin season after two years of zero quota, telling IntraFish it will reduce the liability on stocks of Icelandic fish.

“We have very, very limited access to capelin in Iceland, and it is hard to replace capelin products [in the market],” Nergård CEO Tommy Torvanger said.

In addition, earlier this year Icelandic capelin was too expensive. But the impact the Barents Sea capelin will have on market conditions will depend very much on Icelandic catches, which means it's difficult to make any definite predictions.

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Egil Magne Haugstad, CEO of pelagic fishing firm Pelagia, told IntraFish the difficulties accessing Icelandic capelin, “which is of course a stock that Iceland and Norway share,” affect Pelagia's presence in the market.

“It is a very political matter. But although it is a joint fishery, there is a reduced availability for fish coming to Norway, and more for fish going to Iceland," he said.

With the 205,000-metric-ton quota for 2018, this reliance on Icelandic waters would decrease.

“The challenge for the operations in Norway is that when we don’t have the Barents Sea capelin we, to some extent, don’t have the possibility to work in the market continuously," Haugstad said.

This year’s biomass assessment shows an increase in capelin that is two years old, which indicates more of the stock is maturing.

Over the past three decades, the fishery has been closed on 16 occasions, always following scientific advice. The quota allocated for 2018 is the highest since 2012, when it was set at 390,000 metric tons.

“If you look into scientific advice for capelin, you will see how hard it is to predict, we always hope for quota but we can never expect that it will open,” Torvanger told IntraFish.

The main markets for capelin depend on the quality of the fish and the final product. Companies use some of it for feed ingredients, but the direct human consumption market is the most important, the execs said.

Nergård only sells for direct human consumption, as roe or round fish, mainly to Asia and eastern European markets,” said Tovanger.

Haugstad told IntraFish the most interesting development in the fishery is size and quality.

“Historically, Barents Sea capelin has been bigger than the Icelandic-Norwegian capelin, and the big sizes are well demanded in Asia,” he said.

Companies expect to be able to process the fish for direct human consumption, and extract roe for markets all over the world because the product is in increasing demand as a sushi topping in Japanese restaurants, Haugstad said.

Pelagia typically sends roe to Asia, while males go to Eastern European markets as round or dry fish. Some product also heads to China.

So far it is difficult to tell what the global supply of capelin will be like, but demand is strong and prices are in line with what the market is willing to pay, Haugstad added.

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