Women in aquaculture: Dr Solveig van Nes
Dr Solveig van Nes, Marine & Maritime Director of Creuna, Norway, has played a key role in initiating a digital education platform that teaches Norway’s next generation about the vast potential of the ocean, as well as the importance of sustainability in harvesting and aquaculture.
Briefly describe your aquaculture career
I have 15 years’ experience with research, R&D management and seafood industry collaboration from the research institute Nofima. This was followed by two years of managing aquaculture activities in the environmental NGO the Bellona Foundation, where I was working at the intersection between authorities, industry and research. I am currently in the field of communication and strategic advisory work as Marine & Maritime director of the Nordic customer-experience agency Creuna.
Dr Solveig van Nes, head of marine at Cruena, Norway
What inspired you to start in aquaculture?
A combination of luck, curiosity and stubbornness. I grew up along the coast and was always curious about life below the surface. This inspired me to study marine biology, followed by a doctorate in aquaculture disciplines. A long academic career meant a lot of work but it also confirmed my genuine passion for the marine environment and seafood, particularly when it comes to the environmental benefits of producing food at sea compared to on land. And, of course, seafood is healthy and delicious.
What’s the most interesting, inspirational and unusual experience you’ve had working in aquaculture to date?
Some of the first experiences that come to mind are exciting ones, like meeting the minister of fisheries in Oman, and being part of an exotic, high-profile ceremony in Qingdao where the world’s first offshore fish farm was handed over by a Chinese shipbuilder to SalMar, one of the largest salmon producers in Norway. Working in aquaculture has also sometimes taken me to places where you can’t imagine people would live. For example, during a project in the northernmost parts of Norway, we had to conduct sampling at a fish farm in the Varanger Fjord – a place that could only be reached by boat. It was during winter (we were studying the effects of cold water temperatures) and it was windy with horizontal snow, air temperatures of -20°C, and it felt pitch dark due to the polar nights. But the scenery was breathtaking, and I realised I’d never have experienced it if it wasn’t for my job in aquaculture.
Can you elaborate on the importance of sustainability, how you address this and whether there is any technical or product innovation with the potential to change aquaculture?
Sustainability concerns have always been – and will always be – extremely important to me. They drive my dedication to the marine environment and aquaculture, education and knowledge transfer with respect to marine ecosystems and industries. One project I particularly liked working with – and still am following with interest – is a collaboration between Bellona and the seafood producer Lerøy Seafoods to commercialise integrated aquaculture – promoting the increased production of lower-trophic species like kelp that can use excess nutrients from higher-trophic species like salmon as a resource for increased growth, leading to recycling and increased biomass without increasing input.
One of the most exciting projects we’ve initiated at Creuna relevant for aquaculture is addressing sustainability concerns in a very modern, practical and exciting way. It is crucial that today’s schoolchildren – the next generation – are prepared for the future, and our future lies in the ocean. They, and subsequent generations, need a basic knowledge of marine ecosystems and our seafood industry but unfortunately that’s being provided today. Marine ecosystems, organisms, fisheries and aquaculture aren’t taught until higher education and this is too late.
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