Former Cermaq CEO talks Chile salmon farming, recent GSI additions

Editor's note: SeafoodSource reported on Thursday, 23 June that Hindar resigned Cermaq as CEO. This interview took place before his resignation. 

Chilean salmon farmers have suffered after experiencing significant losses from a recent red tide and fishermen port protests this spring.

Chilean officials recently released long-awaited rules for salmon farmers, including an incentive-based system and sanitary targets. Still, getting a handle on Salmonid Ricketsial Septicaemia (SRS) disease and other issues continue to plague salmon farmers.

SeafoodSource recently talked with Jon Hindar, CEO of Cermaq, about how Chilean salmon farming can be improved, as well as the Global Salmon Initiative’s recent addition of three leading industry feed companies, Biomar, Cargill (former EWOS) and Skretting, will help grow the entire salmon farming industry.

SeafoodSource: How is Cermaq Chile recovering since the incredible fish losses and port protests in Chile? What are the challenges faced by Chilean salmon farmers?

Hindar: The Chilean industry has suffered a lot in the recent period…from the volcano eruption, the algae bloom and from the protests. In addition, SRS disease is an enormous challenge, and also the currency situation has been hard on the Chilean industry. Cermaq has also experienced significant losses in Chile.

SeafoodSource: What can be done to help the industry in Chile grow again?

Hindar: The two main changes needed to get Chilean farming back on track are updated regulations that ensure both biological sustainability and adequate flexibility for the farmers to regain cost competition and an efficient vaccine against SRS. Cermaq's R&D [team] has been directly involved in the work on an SRS vaccine, isolating and characterizing strains of the bacteria and giving this material to pharmaceutical companies. Currently, we are conducting structured trials of new vaccines. An efficient vaccine will be a game changer, enabling the Chilean industry to reduce loss, improve quality/price realization and reduce antibiotic use to a minimum.

SeafoodSource: The addition of these major feed suppliers adds to the growth of GSI. Does GSI still represent around 50 percent of the farmed salmon industry?

Hindar: As the GSI farming companies, we currently represent approximately 50 percent of the industry and cover operations in eight different farming regions. As our new collaboration with the industry feed companies demonstrates, GSI is willing and keen to work with companies both in farming and those in our value chain who share and are able to support our vision for a sustainable future for the farmed salmon sector, and also believe in our key principles of cooperation and transparency.

SeafoodSource: How can GSI help to grow the Chilean farmed salmon sector?

Hindar: Clearly, it is in our interest to help the industry grow, but we know from previous experience that this needs to be done in a sustainable manner if it is to be successful and long term. It is for this very reason that initiatives like the GSI are important. If we want to grow, we need to have good biological management, we need to see greater uptake of certifications like ASC (Aquaculture Stewardship Council) and we need to ensure the future supply of feed raw ingredients. These are all the key issues that are affecting the industry as a whole, which is why it makes sense for us to work on them together.

SeafoodSource: What major goals would GSI like to accomplish this year and what has the Initiative accomplished so far in 2016?

Hindar: We have already seen some key accomplishments from GSI this year. We have recently published the second version of our Annual Sustainability Report, which includes data from all 12 members across 14 key indicators. This is a significant accomplishment for us, and is setting a precedent for the wider food sector on the level of transparency needed and achievable across a sector.

Our goal now, of course, is to start to demonstrate improvements within the data expressed in the report. One point highlighted in the report is the excellent progress with the number of ASC certifications (now over 70 farms certified and over 35 under assessment), and our goal now is to continue with this progress and see more and more farms certified.

As I mentioned before, biological management remains a critical issue for the industry and a key focus for GSI and, within our Biosecurity Technical Working Group, we continue to share knowledge in best practices to help combat the lice situation. A key part of this is improving the use of non-medicinal approaches to lice management. In addition, a significant priority is reducing the use of antibiotics, and we are establishing an agreed-upon GSI protocol of best practices in this area, where we shall be continually reviewing and looking for ways we can do better.

Finally, as highlighted by our recent partnership announcement with the industry feed companies, we are committed to ensuring the future sustainability of our feed supplies. One aspect of this is the utilization of novel oils and, following the GSI feed tender last year, we have identified a number of viable sources of novel oil which could be used in salmon feed and are pleased to see a significant increase in activity within this area…Our goal is that, by the end of the year, we will be in a much better position to start incorporating the oils into the feed and can reduce our dependency on marine resources.


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