Stella Polaris has been "aggressive" about contracting vessels to land shrimp early in 2018, he said. The firm buys from vessels including the factory trawler Granit -- owned by Halstensen Granit in Bekkjarvik -- and Havfisk's newest vessel, the Nordtind.
Havfisk CEO Webjorn Barstad himself recently told Undercurrent he expected volumes and prices for coldwater shrimp to improve in 2018, and the company has geared itself to land three times as much to try and compensate for lower cod and haddock quotas.
"We needed higher Barents Sea yields, and to buy raw materials to recover from what are zero stocks now," said Nordahl. "Hence we upped our offer prices to get the boats out earlier; that price needed to go up in order to make shrimp fishing competitive compared to cod and saithe."
As of the beginning of May, Norwegian shrimp catches are up 253%, and dockside prices up 41%, Tor-Edgar Ripman, of the Norwegian seafood sales organization Norges Rafisklag, told Undercurrent.
"Catch rates were very good the first two months (first boat went out mid-February) when the boats were fishing in the Russian sector where we have a TAC [total allowable catch] of 4,000 metric tons."
This TAC has been caught, and Norwegian vessels have moved west to the "Loophole" area and the Svalbard zone, he said. "Landings are well ahead of last year with eight boats active (only two had started fishing last year at the same time)."
Ripman estimated coldwater shrimp landings could reach 20,000t by the end of 2018; this would make it the strongest year for fishing in recent years. In 2015 Norway landed roughly 14,600t, and catches have declined each year since then, with around 5,500t caught in 2017.
"Some of the reduced production in Canada can be substituted with product from Norway," Ripman noted. Cooked and peeled shrimp production is looking likely to be even more stretched this year than last, with the news that Canada's northern shrimp fishing area six -- which has seen dramatic decreases in biomass over the past two years -- has been cut by 16%, to 8,730t.
Speaking at the Brussels show, Nordahl said that shrimp prices were up 34% y-o-y, at just over NOK 30 per kilogram to the boat. Exports too were up over the first few months of 2018, he added.
"Customers have understood the prices are up, though we've not passed on the hike in raw material prices fully," he said. "We want to give a bit of a buffer to customers. Sweden, Finland, does still have demand. The current price levels should be acceptable to the market."
Icelandic shrimp catches were down in 2017, by around 30%, and are expected to be down in 2018 as well, so processors there are looking to lift imports, Nordahl said.