A discussion about the ongoing pandemic with a seasoned fish farmer. Written by Björgólfur Hávarðsson, Innovation Manager at NCE Seafood Innovation.

A seasoned fish farmer told me, “…you know, we know the drill…” as we recently discussed the ongoing pandemic and the ongoing disruption to our daily lives. He was deeply empathic, feeling the impact and carrying the same worries as we all do. He was concerned with the lack of preparedness apparent everywhere in the world. “Society should look to the aquaculture industry…” he said, “…we are reacting to potential epidemics on a daily basis, and we are drilled in preparedness!”

There is much truth to that, even tho one can never copy industry reactions directly to human society, nor do we have all the answers. But one doesn’t need all the answers to contribute and inspire. The seafood industry is in a constant state of epidemic/pandemic preparedness, reacting to outbreaks of ISA, PD and IPN in atlantic salmon, VNN in sea bream, TiLV in Tilapia and white spot in shrimp, AND on a constant lookout for the next threat.

I do believe that there are lessons to be learnt. From the biosecurity measures implemented as a matter of fact with large parts of the aquaculture industry globally, quick reactions to implement smart changes to one’s daily routines. Staying supplied and focusing on the science, applying testing systematically and comprehensively.

“…you know, we know the drill…” 

Even vital parts of our infrastructure can and are being activated to the benefit of our society. Chilean and Faroese fish health laboratories have been activated to analyse human samples for SARS-CoV-2, Norwegian counterparts PatoGen AS and PHARMAQ Analytiq AS have offered their services, ready to step up. After all, they are equipped with the same type of equipment, highly skilled and dedicated personnel and certifications on par with the human health labs. Our fish health specialists in companies like Åkerblå AS and Europharma AS detect, trace and implement necessary measures immediately, working with professionals in companies like MowiLerøy Seafood Group ASA and Grieg Seafood activating biosecurity plans and implementing measures for limiting the outbreak. We develop and apply vaccines when possible, no anti-vaxxers here, to protect our fish through herd immunity. We also stock vital supplies, to such a degree that the seafood industry actually was able to support the health institutions in Bergen during the early outbreak – the national stores of PPE for our first line were simply not up to scratch – lack of basic preparedness apparent in most countries.

The industry utilizes a global logistics infrastructure comprised of everything from airplanes and ships plying international trade routes, to vehicles on the ground distributing vaccines in cold store conditions to a very distributed and decentralized group of customers, after all, aquaculture is, first and foremost, the industry of rural areas. Here, vaccines and vital supplies are already being moved quickly and efficiently even in areas with little in the way of logistics. It is possible to activate parts of this network in support of the efforts of global and regional health organisation to achieve the goal of immunisation and support.

“…we are reacting to potential epidemics on a daily basis, and we are drilled in preparedness!” 

So as an industry, we can both inspire and show the way in how our infrastructure can be activated, how we stock critical supplies, even how parts of our logistics could be utilized to move vital supplies from producers to remote areas. Our degree of preparedness and cooperation should be an example for many governments to follow, not least in the continuous support and focus on science.

In the midst of a pandemic disrupting every aspect of life, here we are, continuously producing high-quality, high-value products invaluable to shaky economies and a population hungry for healthy food and jobs, perfectly in place to contribute to restarting our post epidemic societies.


PS: Some of the articles and web pages linked into here are in Norwegian only, don’t let that stop you, Google Translate is a beautiful thing!

Written by Björgólfur Hávarðsson, Innovation Manager at NCE Seafood Innovation