Icelandic salmon farmers, Laxar, talk about lessons learnt after their BKD outbreak

Stian Olsen

“We should have used our own tanker, acknowledged Laxar’s Managing Director, Helgi G. Sigurðsson.

SalmonBusiness recently visited the Icelandic salmon farmer’s, Laxar, at their head office in Kópavogur, the country’s second largest town, which is about ten minutes by car from the capital, Reykjavik.

Last year the company, which has Norwegian salmon farmers, Måsøval Fiskeoppdrett, as one of its owners, was hit by the debilitating salmon disease bacterial kidney disease (BKD) that attacked their 2017-release. The salmon suffered mass mortalities, leading to the company having to slaughter half a generation of stock.

Helgi G. Sigurðsson, who has been managing director since 2011, said the disease most likely came from a tanker that was used in connection with the transport of smolt. According to Sigurðsson, immediately before the tanker transported their smolt, it had been used for transport of wild smolt.

“That’s what we think happened. It was a new beginner error of judgement, when we were in the process of building up the company,” Sigurðsson told SalmonBusiness, and continued:

“We had an external tanker to start off with. We scrutinised the routines for transport of smolt, which included disinfection. We made a proper effort, but as you can imagine, you never know what turn of fate is waiting to greet you,” said Sigurðsson.

Helgi G. Sigurðsson. PHOTO: Sharon Olsen

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Should have used our own tanker
Einar Örn Gunnarsson, who founded the company in 2005 together with his brothers, said the company had taken the appropriate precautions.

“It was beyond our control,” he said.

Einar Örn Gunnarsson. PHOTO: Sharon Olsen

But both Gunnarsson and Sigurðsson stressed they are not out to pin the blame on anyone.

“We should have used our own tanker, but this is part and parcel of building up an organisation. There are many stages to deal with, and things take time. We’re not a 20 year old company,” said Sigurðsson.

He explained that the company now uses three of its own tankers to transport smolt. They have also inked a contract with the fish health company Fishguard, which has an office in Reykjavik.

Laxabraut’s post-smolt plant. PHOTO: Sharon Olsen

Thought we had control
Helgi G. Sigurðsson said they are learning from how Norwegian producers deal with challenges such as lice and diseases.

“It’s vital that we learn from the Norwegians. We’re taking on board expertise, as with the appointment of Jóhannes Sigurðsson, who is head of the land-based production.

Sigurðsson has many years of experience as a smolt producer, and in Norway has worked for Lerøy, Marine Harvest and Grieg Seafood. With regard to the BKD episode, Sigurðsson had the following to say:

“We thought we had control, plus that it had been confirmed to us that the tanker was 100 percent BKD-free.”


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