High Liner CEO Paul Jewer, Alfa Gamma CEO Santiago Alvarez offer insight from the C-suite

Paul Jewer and Santiago Alvarez on stage at GSMC.

Paul Jewer is the CEO of High Liner Foods, a value-added, publicly traded distributor of frozen seafood across North America, headquartered in Lunenburg, Nova Scotia, Canada. Santiago Alvarez is the CEO of the Alfa Gamma Group, a vertically integrated seafood company based in Miami, Florida, U.S.A.

The two spoke on a panel titled “Inside the C-Suite” at the Global Seafood Market Conference in Orlando, Florida, U.S.A. on 24 January, moderated by SeafoodSource Executive Editor Cliff White. Their comments have been edited for clarity.

SeafoodSource: The last year has been a difficult one for the seafood industry. What is the biggest challenge facing the industry in 2024?

Jewer: Supply and regulatory issues that impact supply are something we all face – day in and day out. I think what we want to try to do is shift the conversation to demand and what it is we need to do to drive higher consumption of seafood and really please our customers and consumers with what we have to offer.

Alvarez: For me, I think it's the negative stories. This is not a new thing for our industry. I think we always have a big target on our back. I think there are things that the industry needs to fix. But, that target is there because we have such an interesting story. You know, our fisheries are so diverse, and I think we need to flip the script and really get back to the positive stories. There are great stories on sustainability. There are greats stories on the social aspects of our industry. Think about all these small coastal communities in developing countries as well as the U.S. and all the benefits and opportunities that the fishing industry supplies for those communities. We have to get better at communicating all those positive stories.

SeafoodSource: What are the issues that keep you up at night in regard to how you’re running your business or organization?

Jewer: Consistency and sustainability of supply and ensuring we can serve our customers and consumers with what they are looking for is something that we're focused on. But, also the fact that, unfortunately, we've seen contraction in demand for seafood. We know customers and consumers are oppressed from an economic perspective, and it's up to us to find ways to deliver more value to them. So, that is a big focus of ours as we look forward in 2024, and I believe frozen, value-added, and innovation are ways that we'll be able to do that.

Alvarez: From the supply side, climate change and its effect on harvests is a big concern. As fishing vessel operators in Central and South America, we're used to the cyclical aspects of El Niño and La Niña, but climate change certainly amplifies the effects of those cycles, and changes and effects on biomass are the most difficult to plan around. Another issue is the economic environment and availability of capital. While you don't have a lack of capital availability in the U.S., in some of the countries where there is microcredit financing or no financing at all for some vessels, any outside disruption because of lack of demand or otherwise will mean that you’re not going to have that subsequent cycle of vessels going out.

SeafoodSource: Both of your companies source from all over the world and deal in many different species. How have you dealt with all the complications in the past year caused by a pricing decline and geopolitical issues?

Jewer: It's really important to look back over the last four years to talk about ...

Photo by Chris Chase/SeafoodSource

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