The Global Salmon Initiative (GSI) recently published its annual Sustainability Report, providing six years of data across 14 indicators for more than half of the global salmon industry. The report identified a number of key trends within the salmon farming sector and its membership, including:
- A 50 percent decrease in the use of sea lice treatments, coupled with a 120 percent increase in the use of non-medicinal methods – due both to technological advancements and best-practice sharing;
- The amount of fishmeal and fish oil in feed has reduced by 17 percent and 9 percent, respectively, resulting in an overall 11 percent decrease in the sector’s use of marine ingredients;
- Farmed salmon continues to be one of the most eco-efficient forms of animal protein production, with the lowest carbon footprint, lowest feed conversion ratio, and lowest land-use;
- More than 620,000 metric tons (MT) of salmon farmed by GSI members are now certified to the Aquaculture Stewardship Council (ASC) standard. Coming from over 185 farms worldwide, this represents almost 60 percent of their total production.
In an interview with SeafoodSource, Alf-Helge Aarskog, CEO of Mowi and co-chair of GSI, explained how the group’s collaborative endeavors and focus on transparency will continue to drive improved sustainability across the industry for a long time to come.
SeafoodSource: Has GSI achieved what you hoped it would over the past six years, and what have been its defining moments so far?
Aarskog: Having been involved in the GSI since it began in 2013, I am very pleased with how far the group has come. There is still a lot for us to work on, but in only six years to see the progress the industry has made in improving its transparency, focusing more on its sustainability challenges, and the speed at which we have approached the ASC standard, I think it is well beyond what any of us expected.
In terms of defining moments, for me, the GSI’s leadership in spurring on the development of novel oils was a critical moment in shaping the future of the sector. We all know we needed alternative solutions to marine ingredients, however progress was not happening at the speed and scale required. Instead through the collective power of the GSI we were able to push the development of these resources into the volumes needed. If it were not for the GSI, I doubt we would see the options we do now in the marketplace.
Of course, as we launch the sixth year of data in our GSI Sustainability Report this month, it’s easy to forget how important this decision was and still is. We knew we needed to do something to change the game for the industry and set a new level of industry transparency, and when we launched the report no other sector was putting out this level of data on a public platform. The report defines us as GSI members – committed to transparency and ongoing progress in sustainability performance.
SeafoodSource: How difficult has it been for the group to put commercial differences and competitive rivalry aside and collaborate for the greater good?
Aarskog: It is not easy, and it definitely has its challenges. But from the very outset of GSI, we set very clear objectives and scopes for our work which is entirely focused on environmental and sustainability improvements. With a clear vision to improve the industry’s sustainability performance it allows us to identify the areas where working collaboratively will accelerate progress. We all recognize that as an ocean industry operating in shared waters the only way we will see true long-term improvements is by working together. And by working together we can identify and implement best-practices and new innovations at the speed and scale needed to ensure progress. Outside of the GSI, we continue to compete for market-share, just like any other competitors.
SeafoodSource: What has being a member of GSI enabled Mowi to achieve collectively or collaboratively that might have proved very difficult to deliver if acting alone?
Aarskog: Being a GSI member delivers many benefits, but one that stands out is our technical working group on biosecurity challenges. Biosecurity is a topic which inherently requires collaboration. Through the GSI, we have been able to review global best-practices, share knowledge and experiences, review new innovations and farming approaches and more quickly identify what is working and what is not. This has not only had a huge impact in Chile, but in Norway, Canada, and Scotland too – in this year’s GSI Sustainability Report, members reported an overall reduction in sea lice treatments by 50 percent and an increase in the use of non-medicinal methods by 120 percent. As an industry, we continue to face biosecurity challenges and despite best efforts we will always face challenges, so through working collectively we can be better prepared, and more effectively positioned to combat such challenges.
SeafoodSource: Moving forward, where and how do you envisage the most meaningful improvements can be made by Mowi and the other GSI members over the next few years?
Aarskog: I think biosecurity will continue to be an area where we see GSI having a tangible impact. Sea lice continues to be an area we need to focus on, and in Chile, we continue to prioritize a reduction in the use of antibiotics. Plus, as new challenges arise, the GSI gives us a platform to quickly address these and determine what industry action is required. Sometimes just the ability to have dialogue with the industry, and industry partners (our feed and pharma members), has significant impact as we can make collective decisions on what is needed. Just as we did with the novel oil feed tender, our work in biosecurity, and our continued work with ASC. By working collectively any improvements we make will have higher impact due to the scale of the group – rather than one company, one farm, we are making changes industry-wide.
SeafoodSource: From your own analysis and insights, what do you envisage the consumer markets of five to 10 years will be demanding from the salmon farming sector, and how confident are you of meeting those needs?
Aarskog: Consumers want confidence that the products they are buying are healthy, safe, sustainable, and responsibly-produced. Farmed salmon is an excellence source of eco-efficient protein yet as consumers demand more from their food choices I believe traceability will play an important role, as well as ensuring that our farming practices are as eco-efficient as possible which we no doubt require continued innovation in highly technical and smart farming practices.
SeafoodSource: Does GSI have a finite lifespan?
Aarskog: GSI will continue as long as there is work for us to do. I don’t see there being a timeframe or lifespan to sustainability improvements, and as GSI members we are committed to the journey of continuous improvements in our sustainability performance. While no doubt our projects may change, the model of change at speed and scale will continue to play an important role in supporting the sustainable growth of the industry.
SeafoodSource: Are there any gaps within GSI’s membership in terms of expertise, geography or perhaps advancing technology?
Aarskog: Being a GSI member requires a clear commitment to the key principles of improved sustainability, cooperation and transparency and we welcome any company who shares our vision and is willing to work to our objectives. In the coming years, I would like to see us expand our presence in Norway and Scotland, as I strongly believe we can support much-needed developments in these regions.
Photo courtesy of Mowi