Volcanic ash cloud grounds fish exports

The Eyjafjallajökull ash cloud that has grounded fish exports. Credit: NASA The Eyjafjallajökull ash cloud that has grounded fish exports. Credit: NASA

The recent eruption of the Eyjafjallajökull volcano in Iceland, and subsequent ash cloud that has grounded flights across many European countries has had a serious impact on the fish export sector.

At the time of going to press, British airports were preparing to reopen and the flight ban had been lifted, but it will still take some considerable time before a full flying program can be restored.

During the crisis, Icelandic company HB Grandi released a statement detailing that it had seven tonnes of fresh fish fillet waiting at Keflavik airport to be flown abroad, but that the situation at that time was very uncertain. “We are in regular contact with our customers in Europe. If any possibilities appear, we will make full use of them, that is as long as our customers are happy with any solutions we can come up with,” HB Grandi’s head of fresh fish sales Solveig Arna Jóhannesdóttir said.

“We are keeping our options open. One is to ship it by air to whichever airport is most likely to be open and then by road to our customers. But this would need their approval. The problem is that a buyer who wants fresh fish today may well be less interested tomorrow. But the situation is made more complex as we are now getting to the point at which we need to make decisions on how to manage production here and for which markets we should be producing,” she continued.

The world's largest fish farmer, Norway's Marine Harvest, is reported to have reduced its salmon harvest and Iceland put fresh fish exports on ice as air traffic was grounded. Around 15 per cent of the Norwegian salmon output is sent by air and it is estimated that fish farmers and producers have lost more than £3-million in failed exports.

However, New Zealand company NZ King Salmon said that there is a silver lining to the grey volcanic cloud descending on Europe.

During the time of the disruption caused by the ash cloud, the company had a huge increase in orders from international customers.

NZ King Salmon CEO, Grant Rosewarne, said customers in Dubai, Bangkok, Singapore, Osaka and Tokyo have all upped their orders substantially.

“Dubai’s order is 100 times the norm while orders from Bangkok are 10 times and the others have all doubled. While it’s early days in the US and we are waiting to see what comes out of there,” Mr Rosewarne said.

The customers are unable to source fish from northern hemisphere suppliers affected by the flight restrictions in Europe.

“Today we have doubled our harvest - which is an extra 10,000 fish - and we’re putting on an extra shift,” Mr Rosewarne said.

“Of course, this is great news in terms of sales. But it’s also important in that many more diners in those markets can now experience our premium King salmon as opposed to the more common Atlantic salmon.”

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