Life on the Arctic Coast: Agnete and Her Family Manages a Fish Processing Plant in Skårvågen

Bø in Vesterålen, Northern Norway (High North News): Agnete Skog's (30) career started with cutting cod tongues at six. At the age of 23, she became factory manager of the fish processing plant in Skårvågen – and likely Norway's youngest female fishmonger.

Agnete Skog (30) is in the middle of her work day when High North News meets her on the quay by the fish landing station Skårvågen.

The landing is located in Bø municipality, on the outer side of Vesterålen in Northern Norway. Bø is an idyllic place this summer's day  – a hidden gem in the lowlands behind Sortland.

A side road from the municipality center, Straume, with tall grass and purple flowers, leads to Skårvågen. The plant is located in a bay at the foot of the steep Skårvåg mountain, with the ocean straight ahead.

Site Lead Agnete shows us to the landing, and the familiar smell of fish appears.

The story of the landing stretches back to the 1940s. The room we sit down in is in the oldest part of the building. 

Agnete took over as the manager already at 23 years old. However, her story here started at primary school age. Her father owned the business back then.

At the time, the family moved closer to the fish processing plant, and her parents are now living nearby.

"My career started with cutting cod tongues at six years old," she laughs. Cutting fish tongues during the winter fisheries has been a tradition for many children growing up in Northern Norway. 

"We spent a lot of time here when we were little. When we got older, we worked afternoons and weekends," Agnete continues.

When she finished high school, Agnete started skipper training. However, she decided to take a year off before her second year.

"I asked my dad if I could work here instead, and he said yes. I have been here ever since," she says.

Lerøy takes over 

In 2017, Agnete's father sold the fish landing to Lerøy, but the father and daughter still manage the landing station.

Their roles, however, are reversed. Lerøy and the family agree on a generational change. While her dad takes over as raw materials manager, Agnete steps in as Site Lead at 23.

At the time, she was referred to as Norway's youngest female manager of a fish landing.

"No matter what title one has, you do all kinds of jobs at a facility as small as this. As a manager, I am also part of the production."

How has Lerøy becoming the owner affected the fish landing?

"It has been very good for the business. They are a wonderful owner and have invested in equipment and the building."

"We manage operations here, but we have our frameworks. Lerøy Seafoods headquarters is in Bergen, and all the fish is sold through them. There must, of course, be an interplay," she elaborates.

Brother and nephew join the business

In later years, Agnete's brother has also joined the business – and these two are now managing the plant together.

"My brother, Simon, also grew up in Bø, and we have previously been here together. He is a trained fisherman and worked as one before he took a different career path and became a police officer," she says and adds:

"When I took maternity leave in 2021, he took a break from the police and became a substitute in the managing position."

After a few years, however, Simon also decided that he wanted to stay, and Agnete says that he now holds the position of the raw materials manager.

"And he who just passed by was Truls, our sister's son. He also works here now," she adds, smiling.

Hectic days

What was it like to grow up in Bø?

"I had a good childhood here and played a lot of football. That was mostly it – until that became a bit too much."

And now – what is life like in the Vesterålen town?

"It is a rather hectic life, and the job is not exactly 8-4."

She says her husband works on a trawler and is naturally at sea for longer periods. She also has two children.

"It can be hectic, but we also like to be social, exercise, and travel. I work out maybe four to five times a week."

"I also spend a lot of time with the family. We are very family-oriented."

Good prospects for the fall

Skarvågen is located near good fishing grounds on the outer side of Vesterålen, and according to the Directorate of Fisheries, is the plant in which most of the fish is landed in Bø.

Of the municipalities' three fish landings, approx. 71 percent of the quantity is landed at this plant.

Most of the fish that Skarvågen receives goes on to fillet production at Melbu in Hadsel, just across the fjord south of Bø. Lerøy Norway Seafoods also own the plant in Melbu.

The two facilities have long collaborated closely, which goes back to when Agnete's father owned Skårvågen.

Fra produksjonsbygget ved fiskemottaket i Skårvågen
From the production site at the fish landing in Skårvågen. 

At Skårvågen, there are a total of five full-time employees and 5-10 part-time employees. In addition, seasonal workers also come when production picks up in the winter.

Agnete says a typical day in the skrei season involves long working days. During the season, around 40 boats can land in one day, both smaller and larger vessels.

"But we have quiet days in between. This varies with the fishing activity and the weather."

From now until October, pollock, haddock, and redfish are primarily being delivered. Then, there are two quieter months before activity picks up after the New Year.

"So far this year, we have received slightly less fish than last year. But it looks like we will have a good autumn season, so we might make up for what we lost in the winter," she adds.

Daglig leder Agnete Skog ved fiskemottaket i Skårvågen

When High North News asks the fishmonger what challenges she sees in the industry, Agnete replies that she wants to see an even greater focus on quality.

"We are very keen on setting quality standards. After all, this is food we are dealing with here," she says and adds:

"If one facility differentiates on price, some may choose to deliver the fish at another landing where the price is the same regardless of quality. We should strive for everyone to be equally concerned about this," she concludes.


This article is part of High North News' series of reports on life on the Arctic Coast. Read the previous report on coxswain Kim Roger, who shipwrecked outside Sørvågen in Lofoten in 2016 here. 

Feel free to share tips with our journalist, Hilde Bye.

Lerøy Norway Seafoods avd Skårvågen

This story was first published in Norwegian and has been translated by Birgitte Annie Molid Martinussen.