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The first months have been hectic. Her first day at Lerøy was barely half a month after the Norwegian government proposed a resource rent tax, which turned the industry upside-down.
“Well, I was thrown into a challenging situation for the industry. Fortunately, I have worked on this question before”, she says.
The government has announced that it will present its proposals to the Norwegian parliament in March, in which case a decision will probably be taken before the summer. What the outcome will be remains uncertain.
“We hope that the politicians will be able to do a thorough job, and consider alternative options. This proposal would have very serious negative impacts on Norway both in the short and long term, because companies would not get to keep enough money for new investments, leading to the loss of jobs that would otherwise have been created”, she says with frustration.
It was really a matter of chance that Aina ended up in the seafood industry. After graduating in environmental and resource engineering, she worked as an environmental adviser at a consulting firm for several years. Originally from Trøndelag, it was homesickness that drew her back from Eastern Norway to fisheries and aquaculture. When a newly created position as head of environmental engineering at the Norwegian Seafood Federation came up in Trondheim, she grabbed the opportunity.
“I thought it was a really exciting job. I knew nothing about fish, really, but I did know a lot about the environment and had some technical skills. So I decided that I could learn about fish.
At the time, there were a lot of challenges with fish escaping and finding technological solutions for fish farms, which were issues that her degree course put her in a strong position to engage with. But she still needed to get to know the industry, so on her first day she told her boss that she needed to go out to the aquaculture facilities in order to look, learn and talk to people. She was allowed to do that, which really opened her eyes to what the industry is like.
“There are so many people who are passionate about what they are doing and really believe in it”, she says.
Seeing the work done by the staff at the fish farms, and the pride they took in it, had a big impact on her. Nevertheless, many people had a different view of the industry than her.
For a long time, she had seen a need for the seafood industry to do more to tell people about what it actually does. There was a lack of knowledge, both amongst the general public and politicians. That was something Lerøy’s CEO, Henning Beltestad, had also realised. He thought Aina, with her great experience and knowledge of the industry, was the right person to do something about that.
“I had very much enjoyed working with Aina, and I was sure that she would fit in well at Lerøy. She is passionate about the industry, and she brings us lots of good and positive ideas”, says Henning.
Although Aina liked Lerøy’s strategies and goals, and the opportunities available there, she had no plans to change jobs after 21 years in various roles at the Norwegian Seafood Federation. However, in the end there was something that tipped the balance. The job would also give her responsibility for building up a new department for communication and public affairs. Having the chance to build up and shape a department of that kind was simply too exciting an opportunity to turn down. In recent months, Aina has therefore been working hard to find the right people for her new team.
“Lerøy is a big company with lots of good news stories, as well as having the right strategies and attitudes in relation to what we actually do. It is important to inform people better, because we need a good regulatory environment for our business. With good regulation, we can harvest and produce seafood, develop new products and create more jobs and wider economic benefits for society”, she explains.
There is no hiding the fact that the seafood industry has traditionally been male-dominated, particularly when it comes to fishing. However, in recent years rising numbers of women have started applying for jobs in the industry.
“It isn’t changing quickly, but we are on the right track”, she says with confidence.
Success often depends on putting together a team of people with different skills and qualities, and diversity is frequently a part of that.
“I have always been most interested in the skills and qualities of the individual people, not their gender or age. In my experience, teams that include both women and men are often the best ones”, she says.
That is also a message she wants to get across.
“We are on the right track, but we must continue to focus on this. Both in the industry as a whole and at the management level, there are too few women”, she concludes.