With a history that goes back more than a century, Klaksvík-based JFK has built a strong position in both frozen-at-sea and land-processed whitefish as well as in pelagic fisheries, able to deliver top quality seafood all year around.
[By B. Tyril and Q. Bates]
He is a former trawler skipper with a track record of successful catches behind him before stepping ashore to manage a leading Faroese fishing company. Hanus Hansen, majority owner and CEO of JFK, has spent more time than most at the sharp end of the fishing business—much of it on the Barents Sea fishing grounds that the Faroese fleet has fished since the 1930s.
JFK goes back more than a century to 1913 and the name refers to founder Jógvan Frederik Kjølbro, who remains a central figure in Klaksvík long after his passing. JFK was a pioneer of distant water fisheries for the Faroese fishing industry, in the process laying much of the foundation for the long Faroese tradition of fishing in distant waters such as in the Barents Sea.
Although so much has changed over the years, the fundamentals remain firmly in place. “We still catch fish and process it for export,” Mr. Hansen said. “What we do has not changed, only how we do it has changed dramatically.”
Today JFK’s business has three main pillars, with whitefish processed at sea, fresh-caught whitefish processed at its Kósin factory, and pelagic products frozen at sea and landed in bulk to processors.
JFK has long had close links with the UK where much of its production finds its way. The company’s filleter freezer trawler Gadus is one of the best-known brands in the UK fish & chips sector, with a reputation for delivering consistently high-quality catches.
“Winston Churchill is said to have asked the British people never to forget the Faroese for helping feed them through delivering fish during the Atlantic blockades,” Mr. Hansen noted.
“The fish supplied to Britain via the Faroese was thought to represent more than 30 percent of the fish imported to the UK during that time.”
“Barents Sea cod is in our DNA,” he added. “This company has developed a long way since the early days and we are proud to be known as a trusted, reliable seafood provider, able to deliver all year round. As a stable and vertically integrated supplier we manage the entire value chain from catching to delivery.”
The Barents Sea cod, haddock and saithe fishery that JFK participates in is Marine Stewardship Council (MSC) certified. MSC certification has also been obtained for the company’s saithe and greater silver smelt fisheries in Faroese waters, as well as the pelagic fisheries the company is involved in. The next step, currently underway, is certification for cod and haddock fisheries in Faroese waters with the emphasis on hook and line fisheries.
“In this business it is increasingly important to be able to provide evidence that you are pursuing sustainable, responsible fisheries,” Mr. Hansen said. “It’s practically mandatory now.”
According to Mr. Hansen, MSC certification has not been an arduous task for JFK, as the processes and procedures were already carried out to the company’s own demanding standards, so relatively few changes needed to be made.
“Seafood buyers are clearly placing an increasing emphasis on sustainability issues as well as quality, and we went for the MSC option as this is such a widely recognized label.”
While frozen cod from the Barents Sea forms the mainstay of JFK’s groundfish operations, there is also a very long tradition of producing saltfish for southern European markets. JFK supplies mainly salted cod, ling and tusk fillets, as well as smaller amounts of the more traditional split salted cod and saithe, all produced at the company’s Kósin production plant in Klaksvík which handles both salted and frozen production. In addition to cod mainly for the UK market, the factory also processes single frozen fillets and loins of haddock and saithe primarily for German and French buyers.
The Kósin facility has a variety of raw material sources to form its production base. While Gadus produces primarily frozen-at-sea Barents Sea fish for direct export, seven trawlers and three longliners supply Kósin with fresh-caught mixed fish from more local waters, while freezer trawler Sjúrðarberg and freezer longliner Klakkur also deliver frozen-at-sea whitefish catches to Kósin.
In addition to its extensive groundfish interests, JFK is also involved closely with the pelagic sector in the Faroes, operating pelagic vessel Næraberg which has freezing capacity on board. The company has also recently replaced its older pelagic vessel Slættaberg with the new and more modern Norðingur, previously Ruth, of Hirtshals, Denmark.