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

Photographer Eiko Jones delivered the 11th Annual Haig Brown lecture at Tidemark Theatre

Jones also screened his newly completed movie Heartbeat of the River at the event

B.C. salmon farms challenge activists’ demands for site closures

News reporting also unfair, inaccurate and distorted

Float-plane crash near Oyster River leaves pilot injured

The plane crashed shortly after take-off from a private property and had no other passengers on board

Follow the frog: Greenways Loop signed for Go By Bike event

On Oct. 3, dress in green and get out on the newly-signed Greenways Loop

NDP solution to homelessness is to ‘warehouse’ people: BC Liberal leader

Andrew Wilkinson made a campaign stop in Campbell River and was asked about homelessness

105 new COVID-19 cases, 1 death as health officials urge B.C. to remember safety protocols

There are currently 1268 active cases, with 3,337 people under public health monitoring

U.S. Presidential Debate Takeaways: An acrid tone from the opening minute

Here are key takeaways from the first of three scheduled presidential debates before Election Day on Nov. 3

B.C. nurses report rise in depression, anxiety, exhaustion due to pandemic

A new UBC study looks into how the COVID-19 response has impacted frontline nurses

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

Join Black Press Media and Do Some Good

Pay it Forward program supports local businesses in their community giving

National child-care plan could help Canada rebound from COVID-induced economic crisis: prof

A $2 billion investment this year could help parents during second wave of pandemic

Search suspended for Indigenous elder last seen mushroom picking in northwest B.C.

Mushroom picker Thomas (Tommy) Dennis has been missing since Sept. 16

16 MLAs retiring from B.C. politics add up to $20M in pensions: Taxpayers Federation

Taxpayers pay $4 for every dollar MLAs contribute to their pensions

Most Read