When I joined Seafish over a decade ago my first oversea trip was to Iceland, many of our stakeholders have links to supply from Iceland and collaboration projects were forming. Initially technical projects were formed with MATIS Ltd, an Icelandic Food and Biotech R&D institute found in 2007. The Humber region has a long history of importing whole whitefish from Iceland to supply the fresh fish trade which saw a thriving market both in Hull and Grimsby. Though there have been many changes in both trade, seafood businesses, financial and political situations the relationship between both countries remains as close as ever.
This was made apparent on my recent visit to Reykjavik. In one week in September the city of Reykjavik held the bi-annual World Seafood Congress and Icelandic Fisheries Exhibition. I attended both events and accompanied Seafish CEO Marcus Coleman on his first visit to Iceland.
We left a very damp UK and arrived into a dry sunny Reykjavik,
the scenery is even more stunning when the weather is pleasant. The
World Seafood Congress (WSC) had already held a range of activities
over the weekend to welcome the 500 global delegates and Monday saw
the start of the main programme. The focus on the next 3 days
was on growth in the blue-bio economy and the importance of this
for increased food production. Several presentations followed over
the next few days to share knowledge in
research programs, technology, fishery management and market competitiveness and opportunities. From the UK Mike Mitchell contributed by giving an informative presentation on the application and compliance for markets with the Landing Obligation. Outcomes included an need to increase international cooperation, improve the image of the sector and sustaining the use of our resources for food production. The 2019 WSC will be held in Malaysia.
The Icelandic Fisheries Exhibition (IFE) saw the first Women in Seafood stand, they had already had a presence at the WSC and continued with attracting a lot of interest at the IFE. Headed up by Marie Christine Monfort Seafish had already been involved in collaborating with this group. Myself and Julie Roberts from Seafish assisted with dialogue on the stand from interested delegates. For myself it was great to meet more inspirational vibrant women in our industry which is predominantly male dominated. The highlight was the dialogue we had with the first female Icelandic Fisheries Minister Thorgerdur Katrin Gunnarsdottir. However I think I have been in the industry so long now though that I do not tend to notice the gender imbalance, though I have embraced every moment over the past 20 years in my career in both food and seafood and would love to inspire more women and young people to join the industry. Therefore supporting initiative groups like women in seafood and food career events is close to my heart.
As per our previous visits we held a reception with Michael Nevin, the British Ambassador to Iceland. The colonial style house was kindly opened up and invitees from the UK and Iceland enjoyed a traditional British high-tea whilst being addressed by Michael and Marcus. This reception provided a quieter opportunity for further catch ups and collaboration and was very well received from both the Icelandic and UK attendees.
I cannot end this blog without mentioning the wonderful hospitality we received, as an enthusiastic foodie I was in my element sampling all the wonderful creations prepared for the receptions we attended. From crispy saithe in sweet & sour marinade to Icelandic Skyr and white chocolate cheesecake, my taste buds were certainly satisfied as I once again left Iceland promising one day I will visit on holiday and relax a bit more to enjoy their stunning country.