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They were sick of seeing the industry portrayed through glossy advertisements and pictures. They wanted to show the real industry, and the people who actually do the work. That desire to present the industry and the people in it exactly as they are was the reason why Vilde and her friend Sigrun Eriksen set up the Instagram account Fishfluencers. They clearly weren’t the only ones, because the account quickly became a success, bringing attention from the news channel TV2, the local newspaper Nordlys, fishery and aquaculture journals and various other media channels.
“We’ve done loads of really cool stuff because of Fishfluencers, and maybe that’s because we’re so passionate about the industry’s reputation; we want people to be proud of the industry, and more people to know what actually goes on”, says Vilde.
“The aquaculture industry gets dragged through the mud all the time. We have our issues, but we also do lots of things well, and it would be great if they could also get highlighted”, says Vilde with frustration.
She particularly remembers when the documentary Seaspiracy was released. It made many strong accusations against the industry, and its overall message was that consumers should stop eating fish. Vilde remembers how she and Sigrun were waiting for the industry to say something, but that it didn’t happen. So they decided to do it themselves. On Instagram, they promised to answer any questions that people had about the documentary. They stayed up all night fact-checking so they could provide good, objective answers.
“A week later, the industry put out information on LinkedIn or their own websites, but that’s not where you reach the people who follow Kourtney Kardashian – who had told people to stop eating fish.”
Many other celebrities jumped on the bandwagon. They uncritically swallowed the message of the documentary and passed on the same disinformation to their followers.
“We felt powerless. We did what little we could on Fishfluencers, and maybe when I get older I won’t mind misinformation like that being spread, but I don’t want to become like that. I hope I can help to change things”, she says.
They hope that their account can influence the industry to share more information.
In order to put the spotlight on people working in the industry, it has been important for Vilde and Sigrun to do regular “takeovers”, which means giving someone else control of their Instagram account for a set period, during which time that person can create and share content. One of the takeovers was by the fisher Susanne Mortensen. In early September 2021, she openly shared her experience of workplace harassment on Fishfluencers. She told how her male colleagues had called her names and said that she was useless.
“They only said those things to me because I was a girl”, says Susanne in the takeover, which is saved under highlights.
She also told about the time when they entered her cabin and touched her against her will. Just after the takeover, Susanne wrote an opinion piece that set in motion the fishing industry’s #Metoo moment, and subsequently several newspapers picked up her story, which soon started a public debate about how female fishers are actually treated and what the industry can do.
“We don’t want to be an account that glosses over problems; the bad things should come out too. Problems in the industry, like women facing harassment and getting a hard time at work, are challenges that need to be solved”, says Vilde.
She is pleased that Susanne shared her experiences. Now she hopes the industry will sort this out, because they want to be able to present women in the industry who can show other women and girls that there are opportunities and a place for them too.
Vilde has several years’ experience as a summer and on-call temp at one of Lerøy Auror’s offshore facilities in her native Lyngen. But her work with Fishfluencers has given her new opportunities in the company. As a trainee at Lerøy Aurora’s food fish department, she has now been given overall responsibility for the company’s intranet page. As a link between the production department and management, it is important for her to not just share important information with employees, but also to find stories at Lerøy Aurora that can help to unite the value chain.
“I still think that the industry isn't good enough at promoting all the good thing that we do. We let people say a lot of things that aren’t true, and just think that it will pass. We know that we are doing things properly, but the people who only hear the negative stories don’t. I’m pretty passionate about sharing the positive stories, and now I can do that within the company”, she says.
That was also one of the reasons why she got the job. Håvard Hårstad, the Production Manager at Lerøy Aurora, says the company has incredibly many good new stories and great people, and employees want to hear about them. It was therefore really keen to find a candidate who knew how to communicate these stories about the company.
“It is a huge advantage to have someone who wants to convey the stories we have to tell at our company. She has useful experience, is talented and understands which kinds of stories need to be shared”, says Hårstad.
Vilde says that she looks forward to going to the office every day and that she really loves her job. However, it has been challenging to combine her new job with continuing to work on Fishfluencers. But although she has had to deprioritise Instagram, they have no plans to close the account.
“We have so many ideas, and we are really passionate about communicating all of the good things that are happening in the fishing and aquaculture industries”, says Vilde, proudly.