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Key figures - Netherlands

Composition of the Dutch seafood sector

In 2015, Dutch fishing companies generated a landings income of EUR 376 million (Table 57). Processing companies added a further EUR 963 million in production revenue in 2016.

The Netherlands maintained a EUR 865 million trade surplus in fish and fish products in 2016. The country exported approximately EUR 4.2 billion in fish products. 82% of this was destined to other EU countries. The main export destinations for Dutch fish and fish products were Germany (20%), Belgium (14%) and France (12%).

The Netherlands also imported EUR 3.3 billion worth of fish and fish products. Only 35% of these imports came from other EU countries. The main import partners were Iceland (11%), Germany (11%) and Belgium (8%).

In 2015, there were 718 registered commercial fishing vessels in the Netherlands. These were owned by 568 enterprises. 96 fishing companies – 17% of all fishing companies – operated more than one fishing vessel. Just under 30% of the registered vessels were inactive.

The Dutch fish catching segment employed 1,619 FTE. The processing segment in the Netherlands employed a significantly smaller workforce of 963 FTE. This may be explained by the fact that the Netherlands operates freezer trawlers with primary processing facilities on board. It may further be explained by the nature of the marketed product – more fresh and frozen than processed fish.

Table 57: Dutch seafood sector key figures

Table 57: Dutch seafood sector key figures

In the Netherlands, 44% of the fish and fish products that enter the market are sold as fresh, 33% is sold as frozen. Canned and dried/smoked/salted account for respectively 14% and 10% of the fish and fish products that are sold in the Dutch seafood market. On average, more than 80% of the fish products sold in the Netherlands are sold through retailers, the remainder is sold through the food service industry. Just under 80% of the fresh and frozen fish products are sold through retailers (see Figure 83). More than 90% of canned, and more than 85% of dried/smoked/salted fish products are sold through retailers.

Figure 83: Netherlands: Fish product end industry

In the Netherlands, the majority of fresh fish – almost three quarters – is sold unbranded (see Table 58), a quarter is sold with the retailers’ own label. These proportions differ for the other fish product categories, where the majority is sold branded. 85% of the canned, and 72% of the frozen fish products are sold branded, with the remainder sold with the retailers’ own label. Just under two thirds of dried/smoked/salted fish products are sold as branded, and just over a third is sold with the retailers’ own label.

Table 58: Netherlands: Fish product retail composition

PP Group (see section 18.3.1), with brands such as Heiploeg, holds a share of around 21% in the Dutch fresh fish product segment (FFT, 2018). Roem van Yerseke, which is focussing on shellfish, holds a share of around 20% of the fresh product segment. In the frozen product segment, Nomad (UK) with its Iglo brand hold the leading position with a share of around 37%. In canned fish products John West (Thai Union (Thailand)) holds a market share of around 30%, followed by Princes (part of Mitsubishi (Japan)) with 18% and Roem van Yerseke with approximately 11%. PP Group’s subsidiary Ouwehand Rederij also holds an important position in the canned segment with a share of about 7% and in the dried/smoked/salted segment with a market share of around 18% (FFT, 2018 and Zeeland’s Roem, n.d.).

Producer organisations

Table 59 shows that there are 12 recognized producer organisations in the Netherlands. Among them is the producer association Coöperatieve Visserij Organisatie (CVO). Of the remaining 11 organizations, 8 are members of CVO. CVO represents demersal fishing companies. Five of the listed POs are regional POs that are also members of VisNed, the Dutch national demersal fisheries representative association. Due to lack of data availability, the number of vessels and members is not provided.

Table 59: Netherlands: Recognized producer organisations


Table 59: Netherlands: Recognized producer organisations

The interests of the three Dutch pelagic fishing companies are represented by the Pelagic Freezer-trawler Association (PFA). PFA states that it represents nine companies. However, as Table 60 shows, these nine members belong to four company groups.

Table 60: Pelagic Freezer-trawler Association members

Company analysis

This section describes the company structures of the four largest fishing companies in the Netherlands. The largest companies in the Dutch pelagic sector are Parlevliet & Van der Plas (PP Group), Cornelis Vrolijk and van der Zwan. The largest demersal fishing companies in the Netherlands are Quotter, de Boer and Jaczon (Visser, 2018). Quotter is owned by van der Zwan and Jaczon is owned by Cornelis Vrolijk. This company analysis will therefore focus on PP Group, Cornelis Vrolijk, van der Zwan and de Boer.

 Parlevliet & Van der Plas (PP Group)

PP Group is a large holding company. It is active in both the pelagic and demersal fish catching segment, as well as fish processing and trade.

The holding consists of over 170 companies, owning 43 vessels (Orbis, 2018f). PP Group has 51 companies in the Netherlands, and 120 companies abroad. It is active in 19 countries (see Table 61). The majority of the group’s subsidiaries are located in the Netherlands, Germany, France, Denmark and the United Kingdom.

Table 61: Number of subsidiaries in countries where the PP Group is active

PP Group generated EUR 850 million turnover in 2016. This was an increase from EUR 772 million in 2015. The company held EUR 903 million in total assets in 2016. The year before it owned EUR 685 million in total assets (Orbis, 2018av).

Figure 84 shows a simplified company structure of the fisheries companies under PP Group.

Figure 84: PP Group company structure (fish catching companies only)

In addition to fish catching, PP Group also processes, freezes, packs, and trades fish through a number of subsidiaries. Heiploeg International is a vertically integrated shrimp company. It includes a shrimp peeling station in Morocco and subsidiaries in, among others, Germany (Büsumer Krabbenhandel), India, and Suriname. Other processing subsidiaries are Ouwehand Visverwerking and Frigo 2000 IJmuiden in the Netherlands, and Euro-Baltic Fischverarbeitungs GmbH and Ocean Food in Germany (Orbis, 2018f).

From the above description, it is evident that PP Group is a very large, fully integrated company. It has engaged in horizontal integration both domestically and internationally. The company’s horizontal integration was not limited to the pelagic segment on which it was founded, but it also diversified its portfolio with investments in the demersal segment. The company has engaged in vertical integration by developing processing facilities both in the Netherlands and elsewhere in Europe.

Cornelis Vrolijk

Cornelis Vrolijk/Jaczon is a group of about 100 companies engaged in both the demersal and pelagic sector. The ultimate holding company – Cornelis Vrolijk Holding – is based in IJmuiden, the Netherlands. The company owns approximately 93 fishing vessels. The largest proportion of the fleet (70 vessels) is owned through Atlantic Shrimpers Limited (Nigeria), a subsidiary of Vrolijk’s main holding Vroko International.

Cornelis Vrolijk is active in the catching and trade of fish through Cornelis Vrolijk and subsidiaries Jaczon BV (Netherlands), France Pélagique SAS (France) and North Atlantic Fishing Company Ltd (United Kingdom). The pelagic fish is stored in company-owned coldstores. Furthermore, Vrolijk/Jaczon is active in the catching, trade and processing of (tropical) shrimps, through subsidiary Primstar BV. Finally, the company is active in fish processing and trade through its subsidiaries Jac. den Dulk & Zonen BV and Seafood Parlevliet BV (Netherlands) (Cornelis Vrolijk, 2018a). In March 2018, Cornelis Vrolijk acquired a majority share in Bertus Dekker Seafood (Cornelis Vrolijk, 2018b). It thereby further diversified its portfolio with demersal fish processing capacity (Undercurrent News, 2018c).

In 2016, Cornelis Vrolijk generated approximately EUR 336 million in revenues. This was EUR 30 million more than in the previous year. The company owned total assets worth EUR 399 million, EUR 37 million more than in 2015 (Orbis, 2018aw).

Figure 85: Cornelis Vrolijk company structure (main companies only)

Cornelis Vrolijk operates two pelagic freezer-trawlers under Dutch flag. As does subsidiary Jaczon. Furthermore, Jaczon operates nine demersal cutters and one mussel vessel under Dutch flag.

The majority of the subsidiaries of the Cornelis Vrolijk group are based in the Netherlands. Integration within the EU takes place through North Atlantic (Holdings) Limited (United Kingdom), that operates fish catching companies in Great Britain. Vroko International has subsidiaries in Portugal, Spain, the UK and Luxembourg; Cornelis Vrolijk International III operates a Spanish subsidiary, Cornelis Vrolijk International IV operates a Romanian subsidiary, and Cornelis Vrolijk’s Visserij Maatschappij operates a British subsidiary. Seafood Parlevliet has a subsidiary in Belgium. Outside the EU, the company has subsidiaries in Nigeria, Ecuador, United States, India, and China.

The analysis above has shown the Cornelis Vrolijk is a fully integrated fisheries company. It has engaged in horizontal integration at both the fish catching and processing levels. Horizontal integration at the fish catching level has taken place in both the demersal and pelagic segments through investments both domestically and internationally. Horizontal integration at the fish processing level has similarly taken place both domestically, and through investments internationally. Vertical integration has taken place from fish catching into fish processing and trade.

Van der Zwan

W. van der Zwan & Zn BV. is a family business, established in 1888. Van der Zwan engages in fish catching, processing and distribution. The company owns and operates a fleet of deep-sea freezer trawlers. On board the pelagic fish is graded, frozen and packed. The company also owns and operates a fleet of cutters. Van der Zwan has coldstore facilities in Scheveningen, Velsen and Amsterdam, as well as multiple coldstores in Africa (among others in Ghana) (Van der Zwan, 2018).

Previously W. van der Zwan en Zonen Holding B.V. was the ultimate parent of the group of companies. This company has been dissolved in 2015. Former subsidiary Willem van der Zwan en Zonen B.V. has also been dissolved (Orbis, 2018a). Currently, the main holding company is AZ Fisheries Holding, see Figure 86.

Figure 86: Van der Zwan Group company structure


AZ Fisheries Holding that operates the pelagic fleet of Van der Zwan. AZ Ocean Pelagic Fisheries operates two freezer-trawler vessels under Dutch flag, the Alida and the Willem van der Zwan. The Danish subsidiary Nordic Pelagic operates under Danish flag the L303 Ariadne (the former M-10-HO ‘Heroyfjord’). The Ariadne catches fishes for the fish meal industry (Visserijnieuws, 2015). AZ Fisheries generated EUR 92 million in revenue in 2016, a year earlier it had generated EUR 93 million. In 2016, AZ Fisheries held total assets worth EUR 143 million. In 2015, it had total assets of EUR 162 million (Orbis, 2018ax).

AZ International is the holding company for the cutter fleet. Through subsidiary Benthic Holding, it owns shares in demersal fisheries company Quotter and flatfish processor North Seafood. Quotter is one of the largest fishing companies of the Dutch demersal sector (Visser, 2018). Quotter is the holding company of a group of seven companies (Orbis, 2018b). Six of them are fishing companies, each managing the operations of one fishing vessel. The seventh company is a fish processing company – NorthSeafood. The fish processing company NorthSeafood specialises in frozen flatfish products, primarily for the retail market (NorthSeafood, 2018). In 2016, AZ International held total assets worth EUR 209 million, up approximately EUR 14 million from EUR 195 million in 2015 (Orbis, 2018ay).

Similar to its peers PP Group and Cornelis Vrolijk, the group of companies owned and operated by the van der Zwan family are both vertically and horizontally integrated. In terms of horizontal integration, unlike PP Group and Cornelis Vrolijk, there has been less extensive international horizontal integration through investments in Denmark and Ghana. PP Group and Cornelis Vrolijk had more extensive investments in other EU countries. However, again similar to its peers, the van de Zwan operations are active in both the demersal and pelagic segments. The company has also engaged in vertical through its investments in both processing and trade.

De Boer

The fishing operations of the de Boer family are considered among the largest demersal fishing operations in the Netherlands (Visser, 2018). Figure 87 presents the web of companies around Rederij L. de Boer & Zonen. The corporate structure is a web of holding and trust companies. No individual shareholders are noted in the corporate databases, and there is no central ownership. Individual shareholders presented in Figure 87 are based on inferences on the basis of directorships (see Table 75).

Figure 87 shows that the de Boer family has fishing activities in both the Netherlands and the United Kingdom.

Figure 87: de Boer Family operations company structure


Through the directorships of the various de Boer related enterprises, inferences can be made about ownership (Table 62). It appears that six family members are the key people behind the de Boer family fishing enterprises: Cornelis Jan de Boer, Jan de Boer, Louwe de Boer, Meindert de Boer, Pieter de Boer and Willem de Boer.

Table 62: De Boer family fisheries related enterprises directorships

Table 62: De Boer family fisheries related enterprises directorships

Ekofish Group and Osprey Group, listed in Table 62, are the de Boer family’s fish processing companies (Ekofish, n.d.a; Osprey Group, n.d.a). They market demersal fish species such as plaice, lemon sole, turbot and brill (Ekofish, n.d.a; Osprey Group, n.d.b). In addition to its own catch, Ekofish also cooperates with other partners who catch “pulse” dover dole, MSC cod, skrei cod and MSC redfish (Ekofish, n.d.a). Ekofish has a fleet of seven cutters that are active in the Danish sea (Ekofish, n.d.c). Osprey Group’s fleet is mainly vessels owned by subsidiaries located in the United Kingdom (see Figure 87).

The de Boer family fishing companies are solely engaged in demersal fisheries (Ekofish, n.d.a). The family has engaged in horizontal integration through the expansion of its fleet both domestically as well as internationally in to the United Kingdom. The family has Dutch vessels with both Dutch and British quotas and also British vessels with Dutch quota (Visser, 2019). It has also engaged in horizontal integration at the processing level through its investments in fish processing facilities in the Netherlands (Ekofish and Osprey) and Germany (Fishereibetrieb Petronella). The family has engaged in vertical integration through its investments in processing facilities, after originally being solely a fish catching company.


As the above analysis has shown, there is both vertical and horizontal integration in the Dutch fisheries sector. Integration more extensive in the pelagic segment than in the demersal segment (van Balsfoort, 2018; Dutch Fisherman 1, 2018).

Originally, Dutch pelagic fisheries were primarily focussed on herring. As in many other industries, consolidation in the sector started after WWII (van Balsfoort, 2018). Horizontal integration in the pelagic segment was extensive, decreasing from more than 100 companies before World War II to three main companies in 2018 (Dutch Fisherman 1, 2018). Consolidation and horizontal integration in the pelagic fisheries occurred in three phases.

The first consolidation phase was driven by the occurrence of the herring worm in the 1960s. In 1960s, consumers were falling ill due to the herring worm. Since the Middle Ages herring had been salted at sea for conservation. However, this was insufficient to prevent the occurrence of the herring worm (van Balsfoort, 2018). In 1968 the government decided that Dutch fishermen were obliged to freeze raw fish at minus 20 degrees for a period of at least 24 hours. As herring needed to be frozen, the concept of the Dutch herring started to change from fresh (salted) landings by a fresh fish trawler to a freezer-trawler that can freeze the fish at sea. The stronger, more forward-looking fishing companies started to develop freezer trawlers. The fishing companies who couldn’t afford to develop this new standard gradually left the sector (van Balsfoort, 2018; Dutch Fisherman 1, 2018).

The second phase of horizontal integration in the pelagic fisheries was in the period of herring stock depletion in the second half of the 1970s. At that time, the herring stock decreased for natural reasons. The fisheries management system was not as well developed as we see now and was not able to react quickly enough. Fisheries continued at unsustainable levels. There were too many fishermen targeting and with this further decreasing an already depleted stock. The reduced earnings had socio-economic impacts. In 1977, the EEC and Norway on advice by the International Council for the Exploration of the Sea (ICES) decided to close the North Sea for herring fisheries. It was re-opened in 1983. The 6-year closure had a major impact on the Dutch herring sector. To continue with fisheries, the Dutch pelagic industry had to find other fishing grounds farther away: Channel, Biscay, South and West of Ireland, and Scotland. Freezer-trawlers able to fish and freeze at sea and stay away for weeks were needed for this. Fishing on other fishing grounds also meant fishing for other species: mackerel, horse mackerel, whiting, blue whiting, silver smelt. As a result, the closure of the North Sea herring fishery meant that companies with the necessary resources diversified their fishing portfolio (van Balsfoort, 2018).

The closure of the North Sea herring fishery coincided with the negotiations among the member states of the EEC/EU regarding the Common Fisheries Policy (CFP) and shared fish stock allocation. Allocations were based on the average catches of the member states during the period 1973-1978. The result was a compromise for every stock on the percentage share of the member states in the quota of these stocks. In their entirety, these allocation keys are called the ‘relative stability’. However, because the Dutch had been fishing in other waters for species other than herring, these new catch records resulted in quota shares for the Dutch pelagic fishermen for these other pelagic species (van Balsfoort, 2018).

The third phase of integration took place after the CFP was implemented. The remaining Dutch companies active in the pelagic segment were so successful and entrepreneurial, that they also started looking in neighbouring countries for opportunities, entering the phase of international horizontal integration. As noted above, Dutch pelagic fishing companies started to invest in Germany, France, the United Kingdom, Denmark, Lithuania, Spain and Portugal, among other European countries. These same companies also started fishing activities in Latin America and Africa. Moreover, the large pelagic fishing companies also started to invest in the demersal sector, both domestically and internationally (van Balsfoort, 2018). The drivers for further horizontal integration were access to quota and usage rights in order to guarantee supply to their customers, as well as portfolio diversification for their. During this phase, the large fishing companies also started to invest in processing facilities, developing their vertical integration (van Balsfoort, 2018; Parlevliet, 2018). This necessitated further supply of raw materials. Vertical integration allowed Dutch companies to compete better with their large Norwegian counterparts, and has strengthened their position towards retailers (Parlevliet, 2018).

Horizontal integration also took place in the demersal segment, but less consolidation than in the pelagic segment. There are still approximately 100 enterprises operating in the Dutch demersal segment (Dutch Fisherman 1, 2018) As noted above, pelagic fishing companies started to invest in the demersal segment. Additionally, demersal fishing companies also consolidated domestically and invested internationally, such as the de Boer family. Demersal fishermen started to invest in the United Kingdom to access quotas. As the demersal quotas in the Netherlands were not enough to meet their needs, they invested in the United Kingdom as enough quotas were still available there. Presently quotas in the United Kingdom are more limited though. Dutch demersal companies also went to Belgium, Germany, Denmark, France, Sweden and Norway. In France, investments were made in existing companies or joint ventures creating Dutch ownership. In Germany, Dutch investments are mostly majority-owned companies. In Belgium, Dutch investments take the form of Dutch fishermen (not companies) operating a Belgian company (Visser, 2018). Vessels under Belgian flag should sell part of their catch in Belgium, while a share may also go to the Netherlands (Brouckaert, 2018). Vertical integration in the demersal segment was also driven by fishing companies investing in processing facilities. There is not a lot of informal horizontal integration in the Dutch pelagic fisheries in the form of quota swaps or leasing as the companies are large and can optimize their fishing plan and quotas. In terms of informal vertical integration, the large pelagic companies try to maintain their long-term client relationships as they are fully integrated and have long histories (van Balsfoort, 2018; Dutch Fisherman 1, 2018).

In the Dutch demersal fisheries, informal forms of horizontal integration take place in the form of quota swaps, renting, leasing, as well as ‘quota parking’. As the relative stability key and national quotas are fixed, the only way to address quota issues easily is to make quota swaps at national level (Visser, 2018).

Horizontal integration has had little impact on employment (van Balsfoort, 2018; Visser, 2018). Even with the fleet reductions, long-term unemployment was limited as crews found employment on other vessels or in other industries (Visser, 2018). All companies employ local crews on their local fleets. In the Netherlands, crew members are covered by the sector’s Collective Labour Agreement. The main problem is getting people to work in the fishing industry (van Balsfoort, 2018). Horizontal integration has helped to stabilize the fisheries sector in the Netherlands. Only the most efficient and effective companies remained (Visser, 2018).

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