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How This Entrepreneur Established One of the Most Profitable Fishing Companies in the World

With constant pressure from economic and governmental forces, running a professional fishing operation is anything but easy.
How This Entrepreneur Established One of the Most Profitable Fishing Companies in the World
Image credit: Courtesy of Norebo
By Norebo: Sustainable Fisher

You probably haven’t heard of Vitaly Orlov. He has tried his best to remain out of the public eye, allowing his company's success to speak for itself. Regardless, the owner of Norebo appeared on international radars earlier this year, after Bloomberg aggressively valued his worth. But Orlov isn’t interested in PR. In fact, it wasn't until a few recent smear campaigns from former partners that he agreed to set the record straight. As he speaks to me over the phone, this is only his second foreign interview.

Orlov has remained at the helm of his company, being hands-on in every way possible. Hence, he engages directly rather than reverting to a publicist. Though his business is spread throughout the globe, Orlov resides at the industry operation headquarters in Murmansk, his remote hometown in the Arctic Circle. The 51-year-old entrepreneur is direct but polite. His English, though fluent, is inflected with a slight Russian accent. He reflects on an industry that’s frequently demonized for its practices, while discussing his personal journey and achievements.

In 1996, armed with a navigator’s degree from an engineering marine school, Orlov left the crumbling post-Soviet Union for Norway, where he pursued more promising business opportunities. He began working his way up the ranks, first joining a Norwegian firm selling fish across Scandinavia, then co-launching his own Ocean Trawlers in 1997, which is now a subsidiary of Norebo.

Norebo Holding JSC rapidly became a major player in the fishing industry with Orlov taking control in 2007. Their fleet of trawlers brought in nearly 11% of the Russian fish that officials say were caught last year. Today, Norebo oversees a supply chain serving more than twenty countries on five continents, making it one of the most substantial suppliers of white fish in the world.

The group is comprised of twelve principal fishery companies based in the Russian Northwest and Far East. This includes trade, administrative, and management firms, and has around 3,000 employees. “We want to make it clear that all the people within Norebo share the same mission and values, regardless of where they are operating. Streamlining the corporate identity plays to this,” Orlov emphasizes.

Furthermore, Norebo has strategically benefitted from the ever-changing forces in the interdependent sphere of seafood businesses. Despite Russia’s current sanctions limiting food imports, the company has managed to keep its global market share and benefit from a strong growth in domestic sales. Additionally, The United Nations noted that a surging market for fish on account of consumer interest in health-conscious diets, has led to an increase in the demand for cod within the last five years.

What’s next for Norebo? The group has recently rebranded, as Orlov explains: “Norebo is a global enterprise, and we want our branding to reflect this. Given transparency is so crucial in today’s business realm, it’s important we are able to communicate a single, international brand both internally and externally.” The corporation just completed a $30+ million project to revitalize its immense fleet of trawlers, aiming to widen its production beyond the eleven time zones they already serve.

Orlov has built Norebo into an agile market leader based on corporate sustainability. The conglomerate has held to a strict code of conduct in their fishing practices, which is particularly essential in keeping the industry alive. “We’re hugely proud of everything Norebo has achieved over the past twenty years. We want our staff, partners, and customers to recognize the size of the business and its heritage as being indicative of our long-standing reputation for quality and reliability,” Orlov affirms. Ultimately, a company built on Orlov’s once humble goal has swiftly become one of the world’s largest fishing organizations.

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