Securing the world’s future food chain will be no easy task but Norwegian aquaculture may have answers. The task starts with changing how people perceive seafood.
Seafood has an image problem. There are countless vegan champions insisting a plant-based diet is the only way to secure the world’s food chain. Meanwhile, beef, pork and other traditional protein sources are far more visible when it comes to advertising and being in stores globally. The voices supporting sustainable seafood are few and far between.
When there is talk about aquaculture outside the industry, it’s not always in a flattering light. For example, the 2021 Netflix documentary Seaspiracy called for an end to fishing altogether. While numerous scientists, journalists and NGOs debunked the conclusion, it didn’t help the image of seafood in the eyes of the public.
“The world needs to eat more sustainable seafood if we are to meet the dietary needs of a growing world population, but we still have a job to do as an industry to get our message across in a meaningful way and to inspire younger consumers to become seafood lovers,” former Norwegian Seafood Council CEO, Ms Renate Larsen, told the North Atlantic Seafood Forum in 2021. “We also see many young people are looking to veganism in the belief that it is the only sustainable choice.”
Dr Gunhild A. Stordalen, Founder and Executive Chair at EAT, a non-profit founded to catalyse a food system transformation, noted that going vegan is not the sole choice for consumers since replacing meat with fish and seafood generally lowers a person’s dietary footprint.
Of course, how the seafood is produced and sourced matters. And that is where Norwegian aquaculture enters the picture. It is a leader in sustainability and continues to work on advancements capable of assisting in securing the world’s future food chain. This process starts with promoting seafood so it will be seen as part of the solution. In other words, it’s time to make seafood sexy.
“As an industry, we all have a responsibility to make sure we communicate clearly and confidently about sustainability credentials as well as challenges. Through knowledge and inspiration, we will win over a new generation of sustainable seafood lovers,” Ms Larsen added.
Starting with sustainability
A major reason seafood can play a role in securing the world’s future food chain is sustainability. While aquaculture traditionally has a significant environmental footprint, firms in Norway continue to develop and launch innovations that allow fish to be farmed sustainably and with a smaller environmental impact.
Off the coast of Norway, SalMar has constructed and installed the world’s largest offshore fish farm, Ocean Farm 1. The facility reduces the build-up of parasites and pollution that can occur in coastal waters while simultaneously eliminating other issues, such as interbreeding.
Another innovation came in the form of an autonomous offshore fish farming vessel developed by Environmental Vision Norway. The ship provides a safer environment for fish while boasting the ability to anchor in unsheltered areas.
Keeping fish healthy is another aspect of sustainability which needs to be addressed. The World Health Organisation previously recognised Norway’s efforts to reduce the use of antibiotics in fish farming. Overall, the Norwegian aquaculture industry uses fewer antibiotics than any other form of animal farming. These efforts are most evident in the salmon industry where approximately 99 percent of Norwegian salmon have never been treated with any form of antibiotic.
Combating sea lice is another area where Norwegian companies excel. If left unchecked, these parasites can stunt the growth of fish and make them susceptible to disease and predators. Firms are now leveraging artificial intelligence, machine learning and other technologies to eradicate and prevent sea lice from negatively impacting farms.
Norwegian aquaculture companies continue to place highly on the Coller FAIRR Index which ranks the world’s most sustainable protein producers. Mowi has topped the list for five consecutive years. However, they were not alone on the index.
Additionally, Grieg Seafood and Lerøy Seafood have routinely finished in the top ten of the Coller FAIRR Index since it was first launched. Ultimately, Norwegian aquaculture businesses are not only the leading sustainable protein producers, but they are making a strong case for seafood’s inclusion in the world’s future food chain.
“Being responsible, transparent and innovative is part of the Norwegian seafood industry’s core values. As the largest producer of the world’s favourite seafood–the salmon–we have important responsibilities we take very seriously,” Ms Larsen said. “A responsibility not only towards consumers who enjoy our delicious and healthy premium quality fish but also to the communities and the environment in which the companies operate.”
Eat more seafood
The next step is increasing consumption. In its 2019 Blue Paper, the High Level Panel on the Sustainable Ocean Economy cited the importance of marine aquaculture in producing enough healthy and sustainable food for a growing population.
Meanwhile, a paper published by Blue Food Assessment found blue foods could reduce certain nutrient deficiencies, lessen the risk of cardiovascular disease in populations with excessive red meat consumption, cut food consumption-related carbon footprints and protect against climate change in several areas.
Despite this widespread acknowledgment, seafood hasn’t come close to reaching its full potential. That can be attributed in part to its image problem. In an age defined by convenience, the public sees fish as too cumbersome to prepare. The stigma is out there even if it may no longer be an accurate assessment.
“It is a myth that fish and seafood are harder to succeed with in the kitchen, but it is an unfortunate result of several factors, including perhaps that the industry initially was a bit slow to jump on the convenience trend, providing quick and delicious seafood products that fit with a modern lifestyle,” Dr Stordalen mused.
A business in Thailand has proven just how true that is. Thammachart Seafood imports salmon from across the world, including Norway, with consumers in the Kingdom having made it the company’s best-selling product. Interestingly, how it is used has changed over the past few years.
“Everyone is aware of the health benefits salmon contains, and the price point is perfect for Thailand,” Ms Yeeran G. Davies, Thammachart Seafood Chief Marketing Officer, told the Norway Asia Business Review in a previous interview. “One trend we are now seeing is people infusing salmon into new dishes or creations.”
The desire for something new has seen Thammachart Seafood launch several innovative new products that were once unfathomable. Most notably, Salmon Wellington and salmon bacon have become a hit among consumers. The latter was even recognised at The International Innovation Awards in the Product Category.
That work may be another critical piece of the puzzle when it comes to seafood fixing its image problem. Not only are products convenient and innovative but the public can be confident in the sustainability of what ultimately arrives on their plates–a tasty protein with a lower dietary footprint. Now, the industry needs to get this message out there in a growing sea of noise.
“Not long ago, sustainability and transparency were potential selling points for our seafood, but not essentials; now it is a whole different ball game. In a world where consumers are constantly inundated with messaging about what they should and shouldn’t do, it is becoming ever more difficult for people to make informed choices about the food on their plates,” Ms Larsen stated.
- Seafood generally lowers a person’s dietary footprint when replacing beef, pork and chicken
- Norwegian aquaculture companies have topped the Coller FAIRR Index for five straight years
- The World Health Organisation has recognised Norway’s efforts to reduce the use of antibiotics in fish farming
- SalMar has constructed and installed the world’s largest offshore fish farm which is located in Norway
- Blue Food Assessment found blue foods could lessen consumption-related carbon footprints and protect against climate change
- The High Level Panel on the Sustainable Ocean Economy cited the importance of marine aquaculture in producing sustainable food
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