Norwegian consul tours county; Nordic Aquafarms hires new local exec

New hire replaces senior VP fired over controversial killed-lion photo

Norwegian delegates pose with Nordic Aquafarms executives, College of the Redwoods President Keith Flamer and county officials. (Lynette Mullen contributed)
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It was a big day for Nordic Aquafarms, the company proposing a $400 million land-based fish farm on Humboldt Bay, as members of the Norwegian general consul toured Humboldt County on Friday in a meet-and-greet for Norway’s budding relationship with the region.

The group, called “Team Norway” in an official itinerary, visited College of the Redwoods, rode a boat tour of Coast Seafoods’ oyster farm, saw the Schatz Energy Lab at Humboldt State University and met the Blue Lake Rancheria.

Jo Sletback, consul general (an official representative of Norway’s government in the United States), said he picked up on similarites between the two regions, despite the two being around 5,000 miles apart. Proximity to nature, he said, is one of them.

“We work very much on what we call the blue-and-green economy,” Sletback said. “In Norway, two-thirds of our economic value comes from the ocean. The ocean is in our DNA.”

Nordic Aquafarms hopes to inject more of the maritime economy into Humboldt Bay. Its proposed fish farm is billed as a state-of-the-art facility, one that could sustainably create West Coast seafood for a country running short on supply.

The delegates from Norway are looking for other ways the United States can champion blue-and-green ventures.

Scott Adair, the county’s director for economic development, was surprised to make contact with representatives for another country, but said Friday it’s a sign that Nordic is moving in the right direction.

“It’s a reminder to us to realize how historic these world-class projects are … this could be the first-in-class fully circulated aquaculture facility,” Adair said. “There aren’t many facilities like this, not just in the U.S., but throughout the entire world.”

Adair also said the delegates have spoken about establishing exchange programs for students and faculty at HSU and CR, so those training for the aquaculture industry can learn best practices from each other.

Nordic, meanwhile, has entered the fish farm’s permitting phase and is conducting reviews of the area to fully plan the facility’s features.

The company has also hired a new on-the-ground executive to replace its recently fired senior vice president of projects, Nordic executive Marianne Naess confirmed on Friday.

Eric Payne, the new hire, began work earlier this month, replacing a former exec who was terminated just a week on the job in light of a resurfaced old photo of him posing with a lion he admitted to shooting and killing.

Nordic has phased in Payne’s hire more quietly this time, but Naess said the company’s decision in January reflected a commitment to acting on its principles.

“We can’t claim to be an environmentally sustainable company and then not act on issues like this,” Naess said.

The company is additionally looking for a project engineer for its Humboldt Bay venture.

Shomik Mukherjee can be reached at 707-441-0504. 

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