Marine Harvest’s Marit Solberg: “We’ve certainly had our share of volatile disagreements, but we’ve always had each other’s back”

Ole Alexander Saue

Marit Solberg is retiring from Marine Harvest after more than 30 years in the world’s largest salmon production company. But, as she assures SalmonBusiness, she is still very much “fit for fight”.

“I’m taking ten days off for a little sunshine and warm temperatures, then I’ll just see what happens from there,” she said.

Wednesday morning Marine Harvest issued a press release that Solberg is retiring from Marine Harvest. In the interview with SalmonBusiness, she stressed that she is retiring from the company, but this doesn’t necessarily mean she is opting for the “quiet” life just yet.

No drama involved
“I haven’t made any plans for my future yet. I’ll have plenty of time for that after 1st November. Until then I’m just concentrating on doing my job. The industry and salmon are close to my heart, but it would be exciting to think in an entirely different direction. Something that involves science and mathematics, the climate and the significance these have for the sea,” said Solberg.

“There’s nothing dramatic about me leaving. This has been planned for a long time. It’s part of my plan to wind down, but having said that I am “fit for fight” – even though I’m leaving the company,” she added.

She’s now looking forward to reducing her workload, and gaining more flexibility in her everyday life.

Solberg started in the company (at that time called MOWI) in August 1985, and has since held numerous executive positions.

Exactly 30 years after she started, in 2015, Solberg was honoured with a diploma and medal for long and faithful service, bestowed by The Royal Norwegian Society for Development.

COO Marit Solberg. PHOTO: Ole Alexander Saue

Tough times and hip-hooray times
Before being appointed Managing Director of Marine Harvest Norway in 2002, she was both production manager and regional director. Since then she has been the group director for fish farming in Marine Harvest, and lastly as COO for Marine Harvest’s operations in Canada, Scotland, Ireland and the Faroe Islands.

“I feel a wrench in my stomach to leave Marine Harvest nonetheless. I’ve had a marvellous time here, working with salmon, Marine Harvest and all the other companies. A privilege to say the least.

“It has been unbelievably energising. There have been both tough times with periods where we have lost money, and times that were cause for celebration – but first and foremost it has been an utterly amazing time,” she said.

Combining biology and economics
Solberg pointed to two aspects in particular that have provided the X factor for the various jobs she has had.

“Having worked hands-on with people out in the field, on farms and facilities, has been the most enjoyable aspect. It’s been great regardless of whether we lost or made money,” she said, before adding:

“It’s having been given the opportunity to combine biology and economics, to enable the achievement of something that is beneficial to people, revenue and the fish. That is the precise combination that powers the industry. It’s been a heck of a lot of fun,” said the 61-year-old.

“I’ll miss people here, but we’ll be in touch from time to time. My heart remains in Marine Harvest,” said Solberg.

COO Marit Solberg. PHOTO: Ole Alexander Saue

Major changes
Solberg ventured into the aquaculture industry when it was in the early stages of establishment. While 30 years ago there were far more individual companies and fewer producers, subsequent mergers and acquisitions have resulted in fewer players, but significantly greater production volume.

The industry has borne the brunt of criticism and been the subject of debate for many decades. It has become more regulated, and greater demands made of the participants. Solberg has been in the thick of it throughout, and is explicit about what she regards as the biggest differences between the past and the present day.

For better or worse
– “The biggest changes from the first half of the period is that we’ve suddenly become visible as an industry. At first we were invisible – and perhaps regarded with some scepticism – but during the last ten years we have been a daily item to read about in the financial press, and the industry has become part and parcel of the Oslo scene. Everyone there knows about this industry and the companies. It wasn’t that way previously,” she said, before adding:

“It’s a change that’s for better or worse”.

Solberg explained further:

“The “better” aspect is that it has brought capital, thus enabling further advances. The “worse” aspect is that even the tiniest of trifles we battle with, are seized upon to create huge headlines.

“There was also perhaps more solidarity previously. Everyone worked together before. We certainly had our share of volatile arguments, but through it all we had each other’s backs for the good of the industry. It’s a bit different now.”


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