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Cats, dogs, guinea pigs, sheep and the occasional horse. This was the everyday life of veterinarian Sigrun Ness Johannessen (31) before she was given the responsibility for millions of salmon.

“It is almost impossible to compare the small animal practice I used to have with the job in Grieg Seafood. But what salmon and other animals have in common is our responsibility to ensure that they have good welfare. Healthy fish that gets enough food and care is my primary job as a veterinarian,” says Sigrun.

It all started with a summer job

It was the summer job at the fish farm Vinnalandet outside Hammerfest that triggered the interest in aquaculture. It happened while she was studying to become a veterinarian in Wroclaw, Poland. Naturally, fish was not a hot topic there.

“The meeting with the aquaculture industry was a fantastic experience. I worked as a farmer, and joined the vets on fish health visits. When I accepted the job at the small animal clinic in Hammerfest after finishing my studies, a later opportunity in the aquaculture industry was certainly in the back of my mind.”

Outdoors in nature

And so it happened. Sigrun was born in Hammerfest, but has lived most of her life in the south of Norway. The combination of northern Norwegian ancestry and beautiful nature, as well as a vague plan to work in the seafood industry, was decisive when she took the job at the small animal clinic in Hammerfest where she stayed for two years.

The current job in the seafood industry means that she spends a lot of time outdoors at the farms, which suits mountain climber and kayaker Sigrun well.

“The days at work are very varied with fish health visits, sampling, and meetings about fish health and welfare both internally and externally. I am responsible for the fish at the farms and in the hatchery in Adamselv, and travel a lot between the locations.”

“I do care for each fish. Even though there are hundreds of thousands of them in each pen. You simply have to love animals to become a veterinarian."

Sigrun Ness Johannessen

Highly competent colleagues

The professional fish health team in Grieg Seafood Finnmark is composed of two fish health biologists, a marine biologist and herself. Sigrun can feel the contrast between working alone at a small animal clinic to surrounding herself with so many skilled and inspiring professionals.

“In the field, I work with aqua technicians and farmers, and together we are a very competent team. We have a single goal in mind, to ensure that the fish we farm to feed people have a good life from roe until harvest. And yes, I do care for each fish,” she laughs.

“Even though there are hundreds of thousands of them in each pen. You simply have to love animals to become a veterinarian.”

Vinnalandet site in Hammerfest, where Sigrun started her aquaculture advendure with a summer job. Now she has the fish health responsibility for the same farm. Photo: Paul Nilsen

Care for salmon

Sigrun is so fond of animals that she has three rescue dogs at home. Dogs that the owners wanted to euthanize, which she as a veterinarian did not think there were good reasons to do. Healthy dogs who for various reasons could no longer be with their owners.

“So I took them home with me instead. Friends joke a lot about whether this care for animals in the end will result in getting my own pens or aquariums for farmed salmon.”

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