Companies Maintain Smolt and Fish Feed Trade with Russia

Brønnbåt ved laksemerd
Well-boat ready to collect salmon at a fish farming plant. (Illustration photo: Thomas Bjørkan/Wikimedia Commons)

Several companies operating in Norway have chosen to maintain deliveries of smolt and fish feed to Russian fish farming companies. The activities are legal according to current sanctions and also in keeping with guidelines from Norwegian authorities. Editor of the industry online newspaper iLaks argues that moral and ethics are being sidelined.

While some companies have chosen to interrupt trade cooperation with Russian companies, a series of Norwegian as well as foreign companies with operations in Norway have opted to continue trading with Russia.

This applies a.o. to shipowners continuing to ship smolt and fish feed to Russian fish farmers. Neither smolt [young salmon for fish farming] nor fish feed is on the sanctions list from the West following the Russian war on Ukraine.

In keeping with authorities’ guidelines

The two major fish feed producers, American Cargill and Dutch-owned Skretting, operate factories in Norway and are among the companies maintaining supplies to Russia. Chief of Communications for Cargill Norway, Kjartan Mæstad, says to High North News that the company complies with all national and international sanctions. In a statement, Cargill writes that the company is downscaling activities in Russia due to the situation in Ukraine. It has also halted investments, and only operates key food and feed facilities, the latter due to food supply considerations.

The issue of continuing delivering smolt and feed to Russia has been covered by the online industry newspaper iLaks, which recently reported that two well-boats from the Norwegian shipowners Rostein were sailing in Russian waters to serve Russian customers. The smolt was delivered to the Russian fish farming company Russian Aquaculture, which operates fish farms in the Kola Peninsula fjords.

High North News has spoken with Chair Glen Allan Bradley of Rostein. He refers to an interview with in which he stresses that the company has halted entering into new contracts with Russian customers, however, that it is obligated to continue sailing to fulfill already signed agreements.

In the interview, he refers to Norwegian authorities’ wanting cooperation to continue.

“According to legal solicitors, we are obliged to honor already signed contracts between smolt suppliers, customers and Rostein as shipping provider”, he says to It is further stated that if Norway were to introduce sanctions on the Russian producers, both sales and shipping will come to an immediate halt.

“That is why this is a political question. Up until now, the [Norwegian] authorities have wanted cooperation to continue. They have even stressed that so-called ‘private sanctions’ are unwanted in fisheries and fish farming”, Bradley says and adds:

“There may be an overall assessment of Norway’s accumulated interests that lies behind this, and we are not familiar with it. We will all have to loyally adhere to potential changes, which would then have to come in the form of sanctions, liberating suppliers from already signed agreements. So sanctions is what will decide this on a short-term basis.”

High North News has repeatedly contacted the Norwegian Ministry of Trade, Industry and Fisheries for comments, however, these repeat attempts have been unsuccessful so far.

Argues that freight should be stopped

One of the people critical of this activity is editor Aslak Berge of He argues that maintaining sales of smolt, well-boat services, and fish feed despite Russia’s launching an attack war on Ukraine is problematic.

“This praxis is legal, however, it is also problematic from an ethical point of view”, Berge says to High North News.

No smolt production of its own 

Two of the major companies operating in Northwestern Russia are Russian Aquaculture and Russian Salmon. The former has also acquired two Norwegian smolt facilities; Olden and Villa Smolt.

“Becoming self-supplied with salmon has been important for Russia, as salmon is popular over there. Production has been significantly ramped up in recent years. However, the country lacks having a smolt production of its own, though a plant for this is under construction. Nor does Russia have feed production, though it is developing its own fish feed factories. They are not far from building capacity capable of serving its own production of salmon and trout”, Berge says.

This has to be imported from abroad, and most of it comes from Norway, he explains.

“This traffic continues now in order to secure supplies. It is clear that Norwegian actors are tied up in legal agreements to secure supplies, however, we have seen a series of multinational companies also covered by legal agreements have canceled these and cut off trade as they consider this problematic”, he adds.

“Continuing supplies is an example of operating on a short-term profit basis, setting morals and ethics aside”, the editor argues.

In a comment to High North News, Bradley of Rostein adds that the company is bound by contracts signed in 2021, with the same prices the company used in Norway last year. He also stresses that the company does not enter into new agreements.

Feed freight and bypassing port ban

On 8 May, a ban on Russian vessels’ entering Norwegian ports entered into force in Norway. The ban nevertheless contains an exemption for fishing vessels. When it comes to supplying fish feed, Russian feed freight vessels thus no longer have access to Norwegian ports. Berge of iLaks argues that it is remarkable that Norwegian vessels have taken over such activity.

“It is clearly a bypassing of the port ban”, he argues.

As for smolt, Russia does not have any high-tech well-boats for freight of living fish, and Norwegian vessels have traditionally conducted his shipping, he adds.

Russian salmon and smolt import

  • In 2014, Russia halted all salmon import from Norway following Western sanctions against Russia after the annexation of the Crimea.
  • Up until 2013, Russia was the largest export market for Norwegian seafood.
  • Russia has nevertheless opened up for importing fish feed and smolt [young salmon for fish farming].

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This article was originally published in Norwegian and has been translated by HNN's Elisabeth Bergquist.