To understand the fall and rise of Bugøynes, we need to go back half a century and across the border to north-eastern Russia. There, in the 1960s, Soviet scientists released a few specimens of the red king crab into Russian waters, and these crabs soon spread west into Norwegian waters. For the fishing communities along the northern Norwegian coast, the red king crab was bad news: it proliferated prodigiously and undermined local marine ecosystems wherever it went.
At the time, Bugøynes was merely a remote and mostly unremarkable fishing village. The fish processing center, where fishermen deliver their hauls to be quality-controlled, filleted and sent to market, formed the bedrock of the local economy. It provided enough stable employment to keep the community afloat. In the 1980s, Bugøynes’ fortunes changed for the worse. The fishermen started delivering their hauls to more accessible processing centers elsewhere, and the village saw an economic decline. In 1987, the processing center closed its doors for good. Øyvind Seipæjærvi, local bank employee-turned-fisherman and one of the driving forces behind Bugøynes’ eventual resurgence, remembers it as a trying time.
“We tried to keep it running and to bring in new owners, but to no avail,” he recalls. “We were desperate for a new source of revenue.”
The years that followed were marred by bleak prospects, and many people considered relocating. Bugøynes’ residents even placed an advertisement in a national newspaper, seeking “any place that would like to increase its population by 300.”