Grieg Seafood BC’s Gore Island farm in Nootka Sound near Gold River. Photo courtesy, Grieg Seafood BC.

How the pandemic ushered in a marketing evolution at a B.C. aquaculture firm

For Grieg Seafood BC it meant pivoting fish to parallel markets without halting production

In 33 years of his career, Rocky Boschman, managing director of Grieg Seafood BC, has never seen such a unique challenge that the COVID-19 pandemic ushered in for the seafood industry.

“We’ve faced a lot of challenges for sure, but not a universal challenge that has affected communities on so many different levels,” said Boschman of the pandemic.

With 22 farms on Vancouver Island, Grieg BC had to make aggressive and immediate changes to their operations, which included risk analyses early on in March.

Even before the term ‘bubble’ became a part of public lexicon, Boschman claims that Grieg BC had already started the process of introducing little bubbles to protect their workers at all their sites on the Island.

Interactions between work groups were limited, offices were shut down early on and adjustments were made for people to work from home.

At the fish farms, all visitors and contractors were limited from entering, the movements of workers between work sites was also limited and all of Dr. Bonnie Henry’s provincial health guidelines were put into effect religiously.

“We have not had any infections in our company, at any of our operations,” said Boschman.

While safety protocols were being implemented, sales and marketing techniques were also redesigned to pivot fish supply simultaneously.

“The biggest change during this covid period has been the evolution of sales and marketing,” said Boschman.

In March, when most hotels, restaurants and food services shut down in the province, the 50 per cent of sales from fine dinning, casinos, airlines, hotels, banquets, was impacted.

Since production of fish had not halted even then, the company had to pivot and merge their sales into the retail segment. Grieg BC is licensed to produce 23,400 tonnes of salmon annually to North American and Asian markets.

“We farm living creatures and we are locked into production plans that have been in play for sometimes five years, so we can’t tolerate too much interruptions into that plan,” Boschman said. “So very quickly we had to adapt to continue to move our volumes of fish into retail- grocery chains all across North America.”

By far that was the “most profound adaption or evolution” that took place for Grieg BC during the pandemic, according to Boschman.

Early on in Canada, fish farming was deemed an essential service which means that growing, harvesting and moving fish to the market continued during the pandemic.

“We continued to sell fish in a very challenging situation. This proved that that the public sees tremendous value in seafood and farmed salmon. Even during challenging times that’s something people want to go out and spend money on. We found creative ways to bring it to them so that even if they could not go to their favourite restaurant and buy salmon off the menu, they could buy it off at grocery stores.”

But while the demand for fish has been stable throughout, revenue and profit did decline during the pandemic.

The prices for farmed salmon are historically low but that’s another challenge that the fish farmers are going to get around.

Rocky Boschman, managing director,Grieg Seafood BC.

The quarterly report released earlier in August by parent company Grieg Seafood ASA, showed the market stabilizing from what it was in the first quarter, despite the pandemic continuing to impact the market.

The Grieg Seafood Group harvested 23,910 tonnes GWT in Q2 2019, compared to 21,802 tonnes in Q2 2019 – a 10 per cent growth. Total revenues during the quarter amounted to NOK 1.4 billion, down from NOK 1.5 billion in the second quarter of 2019.

Chief Executive officer, Andreas Kvame had said that the second quarter of 2020 was impacted by the pandemic, with more disruptions in the U.S. market which is mainly supplied by B.C. “However, lower prices in the U.S. have been matched by improved biology, lower costs and increased competitiveness in B.C.,” said Kvame.

At the same time the company did not lay off any of its employees in B.C either. “We hired an additional 25 people during the pandemic,” said Boschman.

This year also marks the 20th anniversary of Grieg BC’s operations in B.C. And the future looks “fantastic” to Boschman as the aquaculture market keeps expanding year after year and a growing population opts for salmon as a source of protein.

READ ALSO: Canada’s first Aquaculture Act enters new phase of consultation

economyFish Farms

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

A 3.0-magnitude earthquake occurred off Ucluelet just after 12:30 a.m. on April 10 and was reportedly felt as far south as Oregon. (Map via United States Geological Survey)
Quake off Ucluelet reportedly felt as far south as Oregon

Magnitude 1.5 earthquake also reported off Vancouver Island’s west coast hours earlier

The inside of the Campbell River Community Centre gymnasium has been marked off in order to facilitate the public flowing through the clinic as they receive their COVID-19 vaccination. Photo by Alistair Taylor – Campbell river Mirror
Leftover vaccines go into arms, not down the drain: Island Health

No unused COVID-19 vaccines are going to waste at the end of… Continue reading

Where urban and natural landscapes meet can be a very interesting place. The Museum at Campbell River and Greenways Land Trust are hosting a talk on Earth Day on that topic. Photo by Marc Kitteringham, Campbell River Mirror
Where urban and natural meet

Earth Day talk looks at urban biodiversity

Ryan Rasmussen goes on a training run on Quadra Island. Photo supplied.
Quadra Island man to run 160 km to raise funds for alternative cancer care

‘I feel like I need to be in pain to raise the money… I can’t do something that’s easy’ — Ryan Rasmussen

B.C. Health Minister Adrian Dix and Premier John Horgan describe vaccine rollout at the legislature, March 29, 2021. (B.C. government)
1,262 more COVID-19 infections in B.C. Friday, 9,574 active cases

Province’s mass vaccination reaches one million people

Is it time to start thinking about greener ways to package cannabis?

Packaging suppliers are still figuring eco-friendly and affordable packaging options that fit the mandates of Cannabis Regulations

As of Saturday, April 10, people born in 1961 are the latest to be eligible for a COVID-19 vaccine. (Black Press files)
B.C. residents age 60+ can now register to get their COVID-19 vaccine

Vaccine registration is now open to people born in 1961 or earlier

A new saline gargle test, made in B.C., will soon be replacing COVID-19 nasal swab tests for kids. (PHSA screenshot)
Take-home COVID-19 tests available for some B.C. students who fall ill at school

BC Children’s Hospital plans to provide 1,200 kits to Vancouver district schools this April

Ruming Jiang and his dog Chiu Chiu are doing fine following a brush with hypothermia that saw several people work together to get them out of the Fraser River near Langley’s Derby Reach Park on March 25, 2021 (Special to the Advance Times)
Man finds men who rescued him from drowning in B.C.’s Fraser River

A grateful Ruming Jiang says he will thank them again, this time in person when the pandemic ends

The 10-part Netflix series Maid, which is being exclusively shot in Greater Victoria, was filming near Prospect Lake in Saanich last month. (Photo courtesy Fred Haynes)
Province announces $150,000 towards South Island film studio, fulfilling B.C. NDP promise

Investment to fund movie studio feasibility study at Camosun College

Tyson Ginter, 7, is proud of his latest Hot Wheels he recently received by Quesnel RCMP Const. Matt Joyce. (Photo submitted)
B.C. Mountie handing out toy cars to light up children’s faces

‘A lot of times it will be the only interaction they have with the police,’ says Const. Matt Joyce

Chief Public Health Officer Theresa Tam speaks during a technical briefing on the COVID pandemic in Canada, Friday, January 15, 2021 in Ottawa. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld
Canada’s ICUs see near-record of COVID-19 patients last week as variant cases double

Last week, Canadian hospitals treated an average of 2,500 patients with COVID-19, daily, up 7% from the previous week

University of Victoria rowing coach Barney Williams at the University of Victoria in Victoria, B.C. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Chad Hipolito
UVic, women’s rowing coach deny former athlete’s allegation of verbal abuse

Lily Copeland alleges coach Barney Williams would stand close to her and speak aggressively in the sauna

Most Read