Fish health

VErdikjede_fiskehelse_engWhy it is important to us

Fish health is vital to ensure sustainable resource utilisation. Good fish health implies that the highest possible share of fish are doing well, growing normally and survive at all stages of the lifecycle. It is an important duty for us as fish farmers to work systematically with fish health through prevention, so that the fish get the best conditions to stay healthy. High mortality also has a major negative impact on profitability. It is also important that consideration for fish health is balanced with the use of medications, both in terms of resistance and impact on the local environment.

Our main principles

We aim for a systematic long-term approach to achieve good growth and high harvesting quality, with a focus on ensuring resistance. This includes the preparation of overall fish health plans for each region. The plans cover regionally adapted infection prevention and vaccine strategies. Fish health plans are revised upon need, but at least once a year. For an optimal mutual response, we also focus on local cooperation and transparency with other participants. When the fish are processed, we will continuously seek to use non-chemical treatments and take into account potential impact on the local environment.

Our efforts and results

We work every day to ensure that we keep the fish alive and healthy. Preventive fish health measures are essential to our success. These measures include  our health feed programs which focus on increasing the fish robustness and ability to cope with stress and external influences, thereby also reducing medical treatments. These preventive programmes involve measures such as; site visitation order, use of disinfectant and disinfectant footbaths, routine mortality removal and offsite storage, isolation of installations by prohibiting transfers between facilities unless the boat is disinfected, and PCR screening for earlier detection of parasites, viruses and bacteria.

Another important preventive measure is the establishment of management agreements to maintain best practice cooperation with other actors in the same area.

12 months rolling mortality 2014/2015

Dødlighet Eng

Figure 1: 12 months rolling mortality supplied as one number (Jan – Dec) for 2015 compared to 2014. *Mortality is defined as: Total no. of mortalities in sea last 12 months – total no. of culled fish due to illness or similar and not included in the harvested number)/(closing no. of fish in sea the last month + total no. of mortalities in sea the last 12 months + total no. of harvested fish the last 12 months + total no. of culled fish in sea (due to illness or similar and not included in the harvested number)) X100

We monitor the health situation at all our locations. We have weekly reporting on indicators such as mortality, and daily snapshots are also available to management from all regions. In order to compare our results for mortality with other sector players, mortality is reported in accordance with the performance indicator GSI defined for mortality. Another important contributor to the monitoring efforts is statutory fish health checks at all locations. This includes monthly reporting on fish health to the authorities, which includes records of external injuries, potential diagnoses and mortality. Monitoring is also adapted to the region. For instance in Rogaland we also take gill scores for detecting AGD two times each week in exposed periods.

Tabell_fiskehelseENGIn 2015 Grieg Seafood Finnmark got fined NOK 900 000 by The Norwegian Food Safety Authority in conjunction with increased mortality in holding cage at the slaughterhouse. The reason for the fine was failure to implement and use the contingency plan to safeguard fish welfare in the case of a fish going to slaughter because of injuries after a strong storm at the facility. The matter has been thoroughly discussed and evaluated together with The Norwegian Food Safety Authority and corrective actions are implemented.

Some of the measures to fight disease and promote fish health do however involve medical treatment. Table 1 shows an overview of regional use of antibiotics. Although we aim to avoid the use of antibiotics, there are some diseases that must be treated this way due to the welfare of the fish. In 2015, the consumption of antibiotics remained low, except in BC, where consumption rose slightly compared to 2014. The increase in antibiotic use in BC is largely due to the emergence of SRS because of the increased ocean temperatures. In Finnmark antibiotics were used to treat outbreaks of Tenacibaculum at Laholmen in September and at Hesten in December. Rogaland and Shetland have had no antibiotic treatments in 2015.

As part of our efforts to ensure good fish health and prevent loss of fish it is necessary to protect fish against birds and marine mammals that enter our facilities. We try to minimize the impact on wildlife in the areas we operate. Despite our efforts, some wildlife can die as a result of interacting with our farms, either intentional or unintentional. In 2015 we started systematic reporting of the number of mammals that have died as a result of interaction with our business, see Table 2. From 2016 we will also report the number of birds.

Our ambitions and goals

Our aim is to keep the average mortality rate for the group below a maximum of 7%. In order to reach this goal we will make the necessary investments in the sites that have high mortality rates, and make sure that we learn from internal and external best practices for keeping the fish alive. As a part of this work comprehensive fish health plans shall be prepared for each region. We also aim to have a technical team to discuss the topic across the regions.

BC will in 2016 review plan for stocking and reducing handling of fish in the sea. This will result in reduced use of antibiotics even if temperatures remain high. Finnmark will continue its ongoing project to reduce mortality through safe and good handling and optimizing smolt quality before stocking. In Shetland, we plan to make the production into an 18 month cycle to improve survival and minimize the need for treatments. We will achieve this by stocking larger smolt and maximizing growth which will minimize the period of time that the fish is in the sea and therefore exposed to environmental problems and pathogens.