Good fish welfare is beneficial to all
"Good fish welfare is absolutely fundamental for sound production, sustainability and profitability," says Terje Utne. He is an aqua medicine biologist and currently in charge of the research conducted at Cargill's R&D licences and other field experiments. Previously, he worked for several years at Cargill Innovation Center in Dirdal and with product development, with smolt, cleaner fish and medicated feed as his responsibility.
Why do you put the fish first in the work you do?
"To me, that goes without saying. That’s what our work is all about, and it’s what we do every day. Good fish welfare is absolutely fundamental for sound production, sustainability and profitability. It’s not possible to run things efficiently with inadequate welfare, and you save nothing on taking shortcuts. If we don’t put the fish first in our work, we might as well close the shop and go home."
Awareness of fish health and welfare has increased considerably in the last years. Through Tekna, Terje organizes the “Frisk fisk” (“Healthy fish”) conference every year, addressing precisely fish health and welfare.
"Just during the last four years, the number of participants has doubled, and that says something of how much more wide-spread this has become. We also observe that there are significantly more people being educated as aqua medicine biologists, and far more people work with fish health at fish farms, with suppliers and in the rest of the industry than just a few years ago."
… and how do you do it, specifically?
"Take for instance the aspect of introducing a new raw material in the feed. Then we do thorough testing in the laboratory through various analyses and fish experiments where we evaluate how the raw material works for the fish. We observe how the feed affects the fish, both in terms of growth and different health parameters. Growth is usually a good indicator. A fish that thrives, grows better. To be on the safe side, we also conduct other analyses for health parameters, such as tissue histology.
RAS is another aspect that is unique to what I do. The matter is then that we do have quality feed, but we make adjustments to improve the quality of the water the fish live in. It makes it more complicated, but it is important to the health and welfare of the fish. In RAS we feed the fish as well as the microorganisms that contribute to cleaning the biofilter, meaning we must take the system into account as not to compromise on the fish. That’s what matters."
What would happen if you did not prioritize fish health and fish welfare in your work?
"We would then end up with products that simply work badly. Our customers would perform worse, and in the end the entire industry will get a bad reputation. You may be lucky at times, but if you are not attentive, things can go wrong quickly. It’s important that the feed is safe for the fish and that the fish is safe food for humans."
What are the benefits of prioritising fish health and welfare, and for whom?
"Everyone benefits from prioritising fish health and welfare. It is favourable for the fish and for the environment. It is favourable for the owners and it is socioeconomically favourable. You waste resources when the fish die or grow poorly. Few things are less sustainable than fish that die during production. You have invested a lot of time, money and resources on work, equipment and not least feed. If the fish dies and is turned into silage, it goes from being a superior resource as food for humans to an inferior one."
At times, the salmon suffer severe strain, with handling and stress. A healthy fish means great potential. This is evident from EWOS DERMIC, which makes the fish more robust. If the fish turn less robust because I don’t do my job, we are in trouble.
– Why should Fish First be an important focus area for the whole of Cargill?
At Cargill, we work with nutrition, and the right nutrition is key to cultivating healthy fish. If you want healthy fish, you cannot forget health and welfare. Everyone in the industry is aware of how important this is, and most people also realise there is a connection between good fish health, welfare and profitability.