Farmers in focus: Building food sovereignty around fresh fish

Farmers in focus: Building food sovereignty around fresh fish

By
18 April 2017

Finnbjørn Vang is a fisher in Northern Europe working towards his vision of fair fish.

Photo: Elizabeth Olsen

My name is Finnbjørn Vang. I’m 38 years old and I help my dad run a small fishing business  in  Klaksvík  on  the  island  of Borðoy in the Faroe Islands. We have two boats and we are part of the second smallest vessel group in the Faroese fisheries sector. Compared to larger vessel groups, our methods are less mechanised, and we embody other values than merely seeking an income. We work with a high respect for nature, and we have extensive knowledge of weather and tidal conditions. Our land-based work, for instance in the baiting sheds is, to a large extent, a social activity. It’s a place where we meet for coffee, laughs and social life while together we prepare baits and lines for fishing.

One of the main challenges our small vessel groups face is related to the low prices we get at the Faroe Fish Market, which is where fish caught by Faroese vessels has to be sold according to the Faroese fish trading policy. Sometimes, a couple of hours after selling our catch, we find the exact same fish for sale in the Faroese supermarket for eight times the price we sold it for earlier in the day. This has left us confused and wondering.

You can call me an idealist, but I believe it is possible to design a more sustainable and fair system. I am working towards an alternative system where we get a higher price for our fish and where Faroese people simultaneously get easier and more affordable access to fresh, unprocessed local fish. I am working on a proposal where we would sell a portion of our catch directly to Faroese consumers at a fair price. A higher price would also enable us to distribute a part of our catch to local retirement homes and hospitals. That way we could contribute with a culturally meaningful, healthy element to the diet of the sick and elderly in our community.

Although we have to overcome a number of barriers such as trade, health and safety regulations, I am convinced we can work towards this vision. We know that there is a growing interest among Faroese people in direct purchasing of unprocessed fresh fish. A more just and fair deal is important both for us fisher folk and for the consumers.

Interview by Elisabeth Skarðhamar Olsen, a PhD researcher at Lancaster Environment Centre.

Email: e.s.olsen@lancaster.ac.uk