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A northern eldorado for king crab

Kjøllefjord is a source of one of the ocean’s most exclusive delicacies. Here the sea floor teems with king crabs, creating a fantastic hunting ground for local fishers.

Kjøllefjord, a small village with around 1,000 residents, lies in the far north of Norway. Surrounded by mountains and pristine nature, the fjord is the heart of the village.

“Sometimes you can catch king crab in the fjord right here, close to the village center, but other times you have to go a bit further out”, says Sofie Krogh Rasmussen, pointing at the fjord that stretches out to a vast expanse of ocean.

Born and bred in Kjøllefjord, she works as a production coordinator at Lerøy’s factory here. Soon she will also be working on the quay, receiving the small fishing boats when they land their fish and king crab.

Kjøllefjord by the water with fishing boats in front
Kjøllefjord is a small place with a lot of nature.

You might expect the fjord to be full of large fishing vessels, but that is not the case in Kjøllefjord. The king crabs are harvested by small vessels, with the catch quota being split between 849 different boats. Since 2003, Lerøy has received, produced and provided the whole world with this exclusive delicacy.

“We receive king crab almost all year round, and we offer it boiled, frozen and alive. It is flown almost straight from the boat to the rest of the world”, she says.

A king crab that is delivered to the factory today may even be found on a dinner plate in New York or Hong Kong tomorrow.

Processing investment

Hidden inside the factory, you find cutting edge semi- and fully-automatic production lines for king crab.

Since 2003, the factory has been upgrading its production processes, and in 2017 Lerøy invested several tens of millions of Norwegian kroner in a new crab boiling plant. Thanks to advanced technology, it is possible to control the cooking time so that each crab is cooked to perfection.

King crabs in boxes at the factory
It is in the clusters that one finds the actual meat of the king crab, therefore this is often referred to as king crab.

“King crabs from Kjøllefjord are the best! That’s what I tell all of our visitors, and everyone who has tasted them agrees”, says Raimo Sørensen, the factory manager.

As they are transported along a conveyor belt, the king crabs are measured by laser and automatically sorted by weight. Then they are cooked using a pre-set programme to give the optimal result. 

 ”At our factory in Kjøllefjord, we boil them in fresh water to preserve their delicious flavour. In this way you preserve the natural aroma of the sea”, says Mats Garlid, a Key Account Manager at Lerøy. This approach distinguishes Lerøy from other crab producing nations such as Russia and Alaska.

Employees at the factory working with the king crab production
Inside the factory, work is being done to prepare all the orders.

Lerøy’s own chef, Fredrik Hald, explains that king crab meat has a naturally soft and delicate texture.

 ”The cooking process also prevents any variation in flavour. The king crabs produced in Kjøllefjord are cooked for just the right time, and they are all processed in the same way, to ensure top quality every single time”, adds Raimo.

All-year round operation

The king crab is an important product to this small community. It maintains activity in the factory at times of year when there is a lack of fresh fish..

“King crab provides work for our community”, says Raimo Sørensen, the factory manager. 

With the exception of the month of April, when the crab are moulting, the catch season is evenly distributed throughout the year. This long season allows the factory to stay open and for customers it means continuous supply throughout the year.

An employee standing on the quay beside a fishing boat
On the quay outside the factory, Adam is ready to receive the king crabs that are coming.

“Lerøy supplies live or frozen king crab all year round, which secures jobs in Kjøllefjord and allows us to be a regular and reliable supplier for our key clients”, says Mats.

One of the fishermen who supplies the factory with king crab is Daniel Lauritzen. Everything he catches is delivered to the Lerøy factory, allowing him to operate more or less the whole year round.

“As a fisherman, I need someone to buy what I catch. I am very happy with my relationship with Lerøy which is based on mutual respect and a good dialogue, says Daniel. We have the same goals, to catch and deliver a top quality product so that our customers return for more!

Read more: Fisher of the Year Daniel Lauritzen

Wider benefits

King crab production and Lerøy’s factory are not just important to Kjøllefjord, they also bring wider benefits to the municipality of Lebesby. In 2020, Lerøy bought goods and services from 34 different companies, spending almost NOK 17 million in total. Around 17 percent of the private sector jobs in the municipality are at Lerøy.

 ”There is no doubt that Lerøy is important to Lebesby Municipality and to the job market here”, says Raimo.

Many of the company’s employees come from other countries than Norway, and integrating foreign workforce into the company is a high priority.

“We play a important role in ensuring that people who come from other countries become a part of the local community, learn the language and choose to continue to live here”, he says.

The Art of cooking King Crab

You can find of this seafood delicacy in most countries, often at the fish counter. In case you need any pointers on how to prepare it, our chef Fredrik Hald has shared his favourite combinations of flavours.

“The sweetness of king crab goes incredibly well with strong flavours” according to Hald, so he recommends different combinations to explore this fantastic product. 

He suggests king crab with chilli, pepper, honey, soy sauce or sriracha sauce. You can also marinade or gratinate the crab to add extra flavours. The king crab itself can be used in all sorts of ways: in sushi; as a soup garnish; in salads; and in sandwiches with chilli mayonnaise.

“Or in salmon and king crab tartare topped with marinated cucumber. Yum!” 

King crab in a box
Frozen raw king crab, almost ready to enjoy!

Raimo, meanwhile, prefers king crab served on plain white loaf, with a touch of mayonnaise and lemon pepper. On one particular occasion, the factory served this simple, local preparation to some visitors. Only later did Raimo hear that they thought it was one of the tastiest dishes they had ever had – and one of them turned out to be a chef at a Michelin-star restaurant!

Mats can also confirm from experience that king crab is popular with chefs.

“Many Michelin-starred chefs praise the quality of the king crab from Kjøllefjord”, he says.

So, if you order king crab at a Michelin-starred restaurant, it may well have been supplied by Lerøy and its factory in Kjøllefjord.