Work in the fishing industry in Norway Description of the industry

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Work in the fishing industry in Norway
Description of the industry

The Norwegian coastal industry – traditional fishing, fish farming, processing and trade – is a complex industry and with a total export in 2003 of 151.000 tons valued at NOK 26,2 billion, it represents Norway’s second largest export industry. Approximately 32,000 people work directly and indirectly with fish. In addition the number of fishermen with fishing as their main occupation counts about 14.000.

Companies working in the fishing industry extend up and down most of the coast of Norway, and handle different kinds of production and work in different seasons. Production is dependent on the weather conditions and quotas, which means that work may be halted due to lack of raw material. Fish farming companies (mostly salmon) have some places fillet production too, but work mostly consists of slaughtering and packing. Some companies have an all-the-year-round production, others only seasonal.

The situation the last two years has been very difficult, especially for the salmon industry, and during that periode many of the big companies have closed down, reduced their staff to a minimum or moved some of the production to low cost countries. The competition from producers outside EU has increased heavily, and the general price level of salmon has decreased considerably during the last two years. In 2003 the industry faced new problems due to high value of the Norwegian currency compared with Euro and other European currencies and a high interest rate. This combination of different events made the situation steadily more difficult which resulted in bankruptsies, closing down and removals during last year. The situation characterizing this business has been reductions rather than recruitment. Currently the exchange rate and the interest rate are decreasing, and a little optimism is coming back at the start of 2004. Most likely we will not come back to the level of recruitment we had because of rectructuring of the whole business both the salmon industry and the traditional fishing industry.

Traditional fishery

In 2002 and 2003 the quotas for fishing of cod have been very low and are still so for 2004. To cope with this fact several fishing vessels have founded networks helping each other to fish the quotas by using only one boat and work as a crew for each other. The result is a declining need for recruitment of fishermen. This means that it is very difficult/nearly impossible for inexperienced to get a job as a fisherman. Eveyone who is thinking of getting a job must at least have a special security sertificate designed especially for fishermen. This sertificate has to be taken at own costs.
Western Norway: Mackerel fishing off Western Norway takes place in the period August to September.

The fishing industry in Ålesund has traditionally concentrated on salt cod and split cod.

The main season for prawns runs from April to September, with large trawlers in the Barents Sea, and off Svalbard and Greenland. The fish and seafood are processed in different ways and include fresh/frozen products for the home industry and direct exports.

Trøndelag: Fishing and manufacturing of crabs is mainly a seasonal activity which starts in July and lasts some months during the autumn. The islands Frøya and Hitra situated on the coast of Trøndelag (nearest city is Trondheim) are the main manufacturers and place for delivery of crabs from other parts of the country. Measures are taken to make this a all-the-year-round production. Salmon farming and processing are also important in these areas, mainly year-round.

Nordland: The season opens with cod in the period January to April. Whale fishing takes place in May/June to August and the coalfish/herring season is from September to mid-December

Troms: Cod: January to March, coalfish: June to August and herring: October to mid-December.

Finnmark: Year-round season, with main season April to May.
Language requirements

The majority of employers wish to employ people who understand Norwegian and can make themselves understood in "Scandinavian". Only very few foreign workers arriving in Norway have any experience or training in the fishing industry and will usually need some instruction, and a reasonable understanding of the language is therefore essential. In order to prevent accidents and to be able to operate machinery correctly, employees need to obtain basic language skills to read and understand notices written in Norwegian.

Training requirements

For a job as a skilled worker, you will need to hold a “fagbrev” - a certificate of your training and ability to work in the fish industry, aquaculture (fish farming) and fishing itself.

It is, however, still possible to get work - without any formal qualifications – receiving fish at the quay and processing, but some experience will naturally be preferable.
Other requirements

You need a doctors sertificate that states that you don't suffer from any cronic illnesses like tuberculosis etc. This is a special sertificate regarding food production. If you are a resident of another Nordic country, you should bring a "Nordisk flytteattest".

How to find work

Most of the work is to be found in Northern Norway, i.e. the three most northerly counties of Nordland, Troms and Finnmark, but there are also fishing industry and fish farming in most of the counties alongside the coastal line. If you would like to get a job there, contact your nearest Euresadviser for information about current vacancies. They will also be able to give you information about working conditions, accommodation, payment, etc. Some employers are not interested in advertising positions over the Internet, and prefer to co-operate with job centres and/or Euresadvisers directly, especially in Sweden and Finland. Sending an e-mail, letter or making a phone call directly to the companies is of little or no use. They do not have the capacity to answer your request. Our agreement with the companies is that if they want to recruit from the open market, they will put their vacancies on the Internet. The Internet address is: Use the search string "Industriarbeid" and then “Prosess- og maskinoperatør”.

You can also call Aetat's Call Centre (lines open from 8am to 6pm) on tel. +47 800 33 166 and ask for information about vacancies for production workers, unskilled labourers or filleters in the fish industry. They will be in Norwegian. As far as filleting jobs are concerned, these have traditionally been filled by women rather than men, but a change in attitude is slowly arising. Unskilled labour, such as receiving the fish at the quay and other heavy work such as splitting, slaughtering and salting has traditionally been carried out by men.
Employers will require a CV giving your personal details and a description of your education, practical experience and a bit about your general interests and hobbies.
The current situation in the fishing industry is generally low activity and limited need of recruitment, but the situation can rapidly change.
Important things to consider

If you were not originally born on the coast of Northern Norway; the environment, landscape, climate and the working conditions will seem like a different world! The winter will seem long and dark and the community will feel small and far-removed from the hubbub of city life. The people and the language will seem incomprehensible to begin with, but if you want to become a part of things, then make an effort to get involved with the local community and take part in local events. Give the place and the people a chance and give yourself time to acclimatise – when spring comes and the days grow longer, the place will look quite different. If you enjoy the great outdoors, then life in Norway and its far North is the ultimate experience!

The work can sometimes be tough and monotonous. Your workplace may be cold, noisy and smell of fish. For some periods, you may find yourself doing a lot of overtime and having to turn up for work at unsociable hours. People looking for work in the Norwegian fish industry should be genuinely willing to do this kind of work and not just see it as a way of getting to Norway and doing something different. Employers are looking for reliable people and will want you to stay at least a year unless otherwise is indicated in the advertisement.
Unpaid leave, i.e. periods with no or little work, can occur. This may put you in financial difficulties if you are unprepared. See special appendix.

The basic hourly wage is about 110 p/h NOK. In addition there will most likely be piecework wages, overtime pay and bonus.


Most employers rent out accommodation in shared housing, which means that you will have your own room, but will have to share a living room, kitchen and bathroom with other tenants. Some employers also have apartments available to let. The rent varies considerably, depending on the standard of accommodation. Basic furniture and kitchen/cooking utensils will be available.

EURES Sandnessjøen, January 2004, EB



Lack of raw materials/fish:

During some periods the fishing industry will run out of the raw materials/fish required to maintain regular production. This will sometimes happen because of poor weather conditions, or if the fishing quotas have been reached or will be due to other conditions beyond the control of the employer.

Unpaid leave:

A lack of raw materials may mean that employees will be laid off without pay or will be given only part-time work on reduced pay.

If you find yourself out of work:

If you should find yourself out of work you will be able to register as a job-seeker at your local job centre in Norway. You will be able to apply for unemployment benefit depending on the entitlements you have earned in another EEA country.

Unemployment benefit - E-301:

You will need to obtain form E-301 from your country of ordinary residence before travelling to Norway. An E-301 form is issued on the basis of your previous employment records by the official body responsible for disbursing unemployment benefit in your country of ordinary residence (job centre, unemployment insurance fund, trade union, etc.).

In order to be able to transfer your entitlement to unemployment benefit from your own country of residence, you will be required to have taken up employment within 12 weeks of your arrival in Norway and will be required to have worked full-time for a minimum of 8 weeks in a consecutive 12-week period (the Employment Requirements). You will also be required to have worked full-time for a minimum of 14 weeks in your country of ordinary residence during the previous calendar year (or for 32 weeks in the 3 previous calendar years).

Excepted from the Employment Requirements is anyone who has previously been entitled to unemployment benefit or has received unemployment benefit in Norway during the 5 years prior to registering with the job centre. In such cases only employment income from the previous calendar year (or, if applicable, 3 previous calendar years) will be counted.
Entitlement to Norwegian unemployment benefit:

If you have been in employment for a sufficient period in Norway you will be entitled to apply for unemployment benefit on the basis of what you have earned during your time in Norway. Unemployment insurance is covered by the taxes you will have paid as an employee. You will need to have earned an income in the previous calendar year of at least NOK 85.292 or an average income of NOK 56.861 in the previous 3 calendar years.

(Figures are taken from 2003 and are changed from 1 May each year).

EURES Sandnessjøen, January 2004, EB

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