An Edmonton-based fishmonger says the new direct flight service between Edmonton and Reykjavik, Iceland will help connect prairie-dwellers with first-class fish for their tables.
Pat Batten owns Ocean Odyssey Inland, a fish market in west Edmonton.
She recently struck up a deal with Icelandic fisherman Kjartan Andresson that she hopes will yield big rewards on both ends of the trans-Atlantic flight.
Andresson said he found her business by typing "fish markets" and "Edmonton" into Google.
Wanting to take advantage of the Reykjavik harbour’s proximity to its airport, Andresson was hoping to find a suitable trade partner at the other end of the line, opening up new markets for his marine produce.
At first, Batten said she was surprised by what the fisherman was proposing – but also very intrigued.
“We started asking questions,” said Batten. “He started answering and his enthusiasm – I didn’t know how we were going to do it, but somehow there had to be an answer to get it here.”
Determined to make the deal succeed, Andresson caught the first Icelandair flight to Edmonton on March 5, loaded down with fresh cod, haddock, halibut, wild salmon and Atlantic char.
Batten took one look at the fish and was sold.
Fresh fish in the Prairies
The Icelandic government gave Andresson the green light on the deal and he now sends a freight of 700-pounds of fish to Edmonton every week.
“We catch the fish, go to the airport, in the plane and you have the fish here in Edmonton – 20-hours after it’s caught in the Iceland ocean,” said Andresson.
And Batten says the fresh fish taste has not been lost on her customers.
“One lady who came from Newfoundland said it feels like [she’s] back home,” said Batten.
“This is the fish [they] pulled out of the water at home.”
A Transatlantic partnership
Now, Andresson and Batten both hope the deal will lead to other trade opportunities between the two cities.
“Maybe beef,” said Andresson. “I had a t-bone steak at a restaurant yesterday and I think it’s the best t-bone steak I’ve ever had. It’s very good. Tasty.”
Batten said she has spoken to Dan Young, who runs Medicine Man Bison from a ranch northwest of Edmonton.
Young said he would jump at the chance at sending his meat overseas.
“That is a pretty amazing opportunity, to tell you the truth,” he said. “We’re very proud of our own Alberta bison and just as proud as they are about the great fish they will be sending here.”
That task might be easier said than done, he said, since he would first need to contact a federally licensed plant to sell his meat overseas.
However, Young says he has good relationships with his distributors, and is optimistic he may be able to convince them to export bison to Iceland.
Nonetheless, Batten and Andresson say they are thrilled that the Icelandair flight has led to such unique opportunities.
“We realized after our first conversation, how important this flight is,” said Batten. “It’s really the connection.”