In addition to illusion and good wishes, Santa's sack is carrying a lot of aquaculture-produced seafood this year.
In addition to illusion and good wishes, Santa's sack is carrying a lot of aquaculture-produced seafood this year.Image: Adobe Stock.

Celebrating an aquaculture Christmas, around the world

Community, traditions, a bit of fun, and plenty of hard work: we spoke to eight aquaculture companies around the world, to find out how they celebrate over the festive season.
Published on

Forget turkey - fish and seafood are on the menu this year, the focal point of millions of dining tables over the holiday season. The holiday season is also one of the high points in many companies' calendars, as demand surges for their products as consumers and restaurants look to celebrate Christmas and New Year with high-quality seafood.

WeAreAquaculture spoke to eight aquaculture companies from Scotland to Ghana, from Norway and Iceland to Spain, Canada, and Chile, to find out about their company festive traditions, and how they connect with local communities and their customers over the holiday season.

Norway: At Kvarøy Arctic, Santa helps out on the farm

Kvarøy, in the Norwegian Arctic Circle, has deep-rooted midwinter and Christmas traditions which the close-knit island community observe each year. WeAreAquaculture spoke to Kvarøy Arctic's Jennifer Bushman and Jeanette Hicks to find out more.

An important part of the celebrations in the run-up to Christmas, they told us, is to bake lussekatter (aka: saffron buns) to hand out to friends and family, in honour of the traditional Nordic midwinter celebration of St. Lucia's day.

"This is one of our yummiest Norwegian winter baking traditions!" said Jeanette, explaining that the lussekatter pastries symbolize light during the dark months, with the traditional “S” shape is an ancient symbol for the sun and life.

After enjoying the traditional Norwegian Christmas celebrations, Kvarøy has a special ritual to say farewell to the old year and bring in the new: a torchlight procession followed by a bonfire, with roasted marshmallows, coffee and salmon dogs to keep out the cold.

Christmas at Kvarøy Island also holds some surprises - most notably last year, when a certain red-suited gentleman showed up to help feed the fish.

Ghana: Tropo Farms shows appreciation to staff and the local community

At Christmas in Ghana, Africa, tilapia reigns supreme - and Tropo Farms works extra hard at this time of year to ensure its customers and staff enjoy their favourite festive fare. WeAreAquaaculture spoke to Tropo Farms' Rebecca Habsa to find out more.

"Tropo Farms embraces the Christmas spirit by celebrating with its staff and strengthening community bonds through generous acts," Rebecca told us.

"As a token of appreciation, each employee is gifted a substantial 25kg of fresh tilapia. We also extend the festive joy to stakeholders by offering them 10-15kg of fresh tilapia fish, encouraging them to share the abundance with their loved ones as well. This is usually very appreciated by them. They would prefer fresh fish over other Christmas corporate presents!  This thoughtful gesture creates a ripple effect of love and warmth throughout the holiday season," Rebecca said.

"Tilapia fish plays a crucial role in the festive traditions of Ghana, particularly during Christmas and New Year celebrations. This versatile dish is often served alongside traditional foods such as Banku (Cassava mixed with Corn Dough) and grilled Tilapia, Fufu and Tilapia light soup, Ampesi (Boiled yam/cassava/coco yam cooked with palm nut oil), Abom (cocoyam leaves in Palm nut oil with steamed Salted tilapia, or in Jollof or Fried rice, or fried in some Spicy tomato stew accompanied with plain rice. These and many more are key traditional meals/recipes you would find in Ghanaian households or any family or important event where food would be served!"

"As a valued source of protein, Tilapia holds a prominent position in Ghanaian cuisine, rivaling the popularity of Cattle (Cow, Goat, Sheep, etc) meat and Poultry meat. It takes center stage at various events, ranging from weddings and birthdays to christenings and funerals. Its presence has become an essential element of the Ghanaian culinary experience, making any celebration incomplete without it."

"This year, Tropo Farms is organizing Christmas and end-of-year parties for each sales depot location, marking a special celebration. The festivities kick off at the Takoradi site, followed by the Kumasi site, and we will conclude in Accra on December 22nd. We also add an Employee Award celebration which we do every two years to reward long-term employees from 5 to 20 years with Certificates of Merit a phone, a smart TV, a freezer, and roofing sheets."

"To show appreciation for the continuous support received throughout the year, will be hosting Tilapia barbecue parties at each sales depot on Christmas day. The celebrations will extend to December 26th, providing an opportunity to strengthen relationships with existing customers and welcome new customers into the Tropo Farms family."

"In the spirit of giving back, we have partnered with the Africa Dream Foundation, a Foster Home in the area of Teshie-Nungua in Accra to organize a Christmas Pizza party for children. This collaborative effort aims to spread joy and warmth during the holiday season, showcasing Tropo Farms' commitment to not only delivering quality products but also making positive contributions to the community," Rebecca adds.

Iceland: Matorka looks forward to the new year after a seismic December

Iceland's Matorka has had a dramatic last couple of months, which culminated in the nearby Fagradalsfjal volcano erupting in recent days. But the company is still going strong, working hard to fulfil Christmas orders and looking ahead to ramping up production in 2024.

WeAreAquaculture spoke to Matorka CEO Christo du Plessis to find out how Matorka will be celebrating the festive season this year.

"This year is a little different. Instead of a red-coated Santa, we had a red sky over the farm!" Christo said.

Last year, Christo says, the Christmas party was held at Grindavík restaurant Bryggjan, with music supplied by former Eurovision singer Helga Möller. "This year, we had originally planned to hold our annual Christmas party at Bryggjan, however, due to the recent seismic activity in Grindavík, along with the recent volcanic eruption, we have decided to swap our usual Christmas event for a party in the new year. This will bring in 2024 cheer and motivation for the Matorka team, to look forward to what lies ahead."

"We pride ourselves on our diverse team, bringing together individuals from countries such as Iceland, South Africa, Thailand, Latvia, Romania, and Venezuela. For the festive season (Yuletide), we want to create a welcoming and engaging atmosphere for all our employees, whilst still including some Icelandic traditions. The Christmas season (or Yuletide) is quite a busy time for us as a business, so we keep it simple here at Matorka." 

"After a year of hard work in the hatchery, the farm, in processing and in the office, we simply want our staff to enjoy good local cuisine, relax and have fun. We also gift our employees with a small Christmas gift – a token of appreciation for them and their families to enjoy."

Shrimp, prepared in many ways, are the main protagonists of Christmas recipes in Spain.
Shrimp, prepared in many ways, are the main protagonists of Christmas recipes in Spain. Photo: Noray Seafood / Alex De la Roots.

Spain: kilos of happiness on Christmas tables in the form of the ultra-fresh Noray shrimp

"Shrimp are, without a doubt, the great protagonists of Christmas recipes in Spain. We can almost say that there is no Christmas without mountains of shrimp shells on the table," they tell us from Noray Seafood. Christmas is a very strong sales season in their product category and a large part of their national sales experience an expected growth in these days.

The truth is that, although in every Spanish home they are prepared differently, shrimp are always on the menu, they are a Christmas classic. "That's why we at Noray enjoy this time of year so much, as it allows us to bring kilos of happiness in the form of fresh shrimp to many homes and restaurants in our territory."

The land-based producer who wants to change the rules of the game in shrimp production takes his ambition all the way to traditions. "Next thing, instead of twelve grapes (*), we'll be eating boiled shrimp, which doesn't sound bad at all," jokes Yolanda Patiño, Head of Marketing & Branding at Noray Seafood.

Of course, as in other countries, in Spain, these days are also about celebrating and getting together with co-workers. "Although it is not the only time of the year when we get together, it is true that Christmas is a perfect occasion to get together with the whole team and celebrate the achievements of each year, thus rewarding the effort, dedication, and involvement of everyone in this exciting project."

In addition, at Christmas, as in the rest of the year, Noray contributes to its community. "We permanently donate part of our surplus all year round to charitable causes through soup kitchens in the province of Valladolid to help improve the menus aimed at the most vulnerable people in our community. We believe that being sustainable starts with being supportive and having a positive social impact on our environment," says Yolanda.

(*)'Las doce uvas' ('The twelve grapes') is a Spanish tradition to call for good luck in the New Year.

The Netherlands: a brilliant year culminating in a cinematic Christmas for The Kingfish Company

In The Netherlands, the festivities kick off with the celebration of Sinterklaas on December 5th with chocolate letters. After that, it's a busy few days for the entire team at The Kingfish Company. "Sales are high for the holidays with record harvests and record days at the packhouse," Head of Marketing Hope Kitterman tells WeAreAquaculture.

"Fortunately, our construction on our extension is complete and nearly fully stocked with fish growing strong and the systems performing well."

So much so that to celebrate the holiday season with the entire team, the land-based kingfish farmer turned its Christmas Town Hall meeting into a cinema premiere so that everyone could see for themselves how the farm is doing.

"Our Festive Town Hall was nice with Christmas cookies, cauldrons of hot chocolate and marshmallows, and popcorn for the farm tour film premier," says Hope. "The film showcases the growth we've made this year and the passion in each department shines through. We are very proud of our farm and our yellowtail."

This way, employees were the first to see a video that the rest of us were later able to watch via the company's LinkedIn page. "Here's to another year of innovation, sustainability, and positive impact," reads the final wish in the accompanying text.

Of course, at The Kingfish Company’s offices in Zeeland, there is also a marine-themed Christmas tree. Can anyone guess which fish 'swims' the most on this tree? Of course! Just like on their farm, the tree is also filled with shiny yellowtail kingfish.

Chile: Camanchaca turns to its communities with an eye on children

"Traditionally, every year we celebrate these dates throughout Chile with our employees and also with their families, especially the little ones, who enjoy Christmas," says Sergio Giacaman, Camanchaca's Social Sustainability Manager. "In addition, as a company we are actively involved in the territories where we are present, participating in various activities that we organize in partnership with the municipalities."

Musicals, carol choirs, light shows - including lighting of the local Christmas tree -, Christmas caravans with floats, or local entrepreneurs' fairs, are just some examples of these traditions for which Camanchaca facilitates infrastructure, logistics, or products, as required by each initiative. "This is a reflection of the genuine commitment we have for the development not only productive but also the identity of each territory in which we are inserted."

In addition, although much of Camanchaca's production of salmon, mussels, jack mackerel, and prawns is exported, the company has four points of sale located in the vicinity of its operations where neighbours can obtain high protein-quality seafood products at convenient prices. "During these dates, in these spaces, the sales of our products increase between 10 to 15% approximately," states Sergio Giacaman.

Surely more than a few will use these products to get the year off to a good start, or at least recover from the night before, because, as they tell us from Camanchaca, "a particularly deep-rooted tradition in Chile is to consume seafood-based broths and soups on January 1, known for their replenishing effect after the celebrations."

Finally, they also tell us about the most recent addition to their Christmas traditions. "Spontaneously it arose 'Sustainable Christmas', a space where the creativity of our collaborators flies, who elaborate ornaments and decorations allusive to the festivity," explains the manager of Social Sustainability of Camanchaca. "The elements used for this are recycled from our own operations, transforming pallets and methyl shells into Easter trees, polyurethane boxes into chimneys, among others."

Scotland: It's all about the people at Wester Ross Fisheries

"At Wester Ross Fisheries, we have an annual Christmas gathering in Ullapool on the West Coast of Scotland for all of our staff," Wester Ross Fisheries' Marketing Director Gillian Osborne told WeAreAquaculture

"It’s an opportunity to get together, relax, review the year and have a bit of fun.  The highlight without a doubt is the “awards” ceremony when exceptional contributions in any area are recognised. This includes the remarkable; heroic;  and sometimes, ridiculously funny. This year we also marked the retirement of the legendary Gilpin Bradley." 

"So; with lobster balloons, retiring legend banner, great food and a brilliant venue, Matt Zeitz took the baton from Gilpin Bradley and stepped up to the presenting.  We cheered the man himself receiving his long service “Rallex”, newly qualified skipper Ruairidh Johnston and Mike Peterson for their rescue and recovery of crew and fuel when UL45 Sustain ran into trouble last week, and Michael Campbell for his outstanding fire safety."

"The Golden Propellor was awarded to Matty Ross and Angus Mackay stood up to take a bow having also qualified as a skipper, while the two new boys Ennis and Stephen, received two new buoys."

"It’s all about the people at Wester Ross," Gillian said.

Canada, Chile, Scotland: Cooke Aquaculture gives back to the community all around the globe

"Cooke’s core purpose is to cultivate the ocean with care, nourish the world, and provide for our communities," Joel Richardson, Vice President of Public Relations at Cooke Inc. tells WeAreAquaculture. That is the spirit that permeates Cooke's team, which has shown remarkable support for churches, newcomers, hospitals, seniors nursing homes, food banks/pantries, and youth around the globe.

"It’s our responsibility to help those in need throughout the year – especially during this Christmas and holiday season," he adds. "Our employees are donating and our family company is providing financial support as part of our celebrations." With a global presence, this support is also provided all around the world.

"A wonderful example leading up to Christmas is how Cooke Chile rallied behind César who works as a cook at the Cooke Chile base for salmon aquaculture in Cupquelan," Joel continues. "When our Chile employees discovered that Cesar and his family were living in an unfit home that presented severe mobility challenges for his wheelchair bound disabled children, we decided to help provide them with a better home and life in Puerto Aysén."

Cooke completely renovated and furnished their home at no expense to them. There is an emotional video where you can see the result of this action, and also understand why the company always talks about the Cooke family. "We take pride that our employees are stewards of positive change and contributors to the well-being of their neighbors," Joel Richardson concludes.

In Shetland, Cooke Aquaculture Scotland got into the Christmas spirit by donating almost £700 worth of toys for children in hospital this Christmas. For the second year in a row, Cooke staff joined team members from NHS Shetland at Harry’s Toy Shop in Lerwick to pick out a selection of toys.

Hospital Children’s Nurse Jan Howard said the donation was highly appreciated and helped to raise spirits in the children's ward over the holiday season. "Once again, a huge thank you to Cooke Aquaculture for the very generous donation of toys to the children’s department."

"The donation will have a great impact on how children cope with being admitted to the hospital and help distract them from painful and upsetting procedures. We have no budget for toys, so we really appreciate this contribution," Howard said. The children will take the toys home with them at the end of their hospital visit.