The Neptun herring oil factory is located in Melbu. Herring oil was produced here for more than 70 years, but today the building is home to the Norwegian Fishing Industry Museum.
The herring factory began operations in 1910. Melbu was the center of industrial development in Northern Norway at the time thanks to industrial and economic innovator Christian Frederiksen. The factory building was very modern and equipped with advanced technical devices. The factory still towers over the landscape on the little island of Svinøya strategically located in the entry to the Melbu harbour.
Industrial processing of herring made it possible to earn money on a raw material that was nearly impossible to utilise commercially in the past. Neptun was the first factory in Norway to use a new American machine system based on a continual expeller processing after the herring is boiled. The new system made it possible to press 5000 litres of raw material an hour, while it used to take twelve hours to process that same quantity.
Herring was steamed and separated first, then dried as meal or used for oil products. Everyone who has been there will remember the characteristic odour permeated the walls of a herring oil factory!
The Neptun herring oil factory was an important source of income and work for Melbu. Yet ever since the 1960s the Norwegian herring oil industry has been in decline. Difficulties with raw material and falling profitability caused a lot of industrial operators in the sector to close their doors. Neptun shut down for good in 1987. The production equipment was dismantled and sold to Morocco. Herring and capelin were no longer producing work or income for employees; the absence of smoke rising from factory chimneys was proof that the steam had gone out of Neptun. The machines disappeared, but the buildings remained. The Norwegian Fishing Industry Museum took over the building in 1991.