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IFFO responds to recent press on the marine ingredients industry

Thursday, February 23, 2017

Last week, IFFO released a response to a series of media articles focusing on the marine ingredients and aquaculture industries. Their responses are below along with links to the original articles:

1. The Huffington Post Blog – ‘Can We Go On Farming Salmon?’

Author Sue Cross’ blog piece stated that “plans are afoot to develop the world’s largest salmon farm. To be sited in the seas off Orkney, or perhaps brShetland, the farm is intended to hold six to eight hundred thousand tonnes of fish. The current limit is two thousand five hundred tonnes. Environmentalists claim the site would generate pollution equivalent in bulk to all of Glasgow’s sewage: six hundred thousand tonnes, more or less. They also predict increases in infectious diseases, sea lice infestations and polluting chemicals. Add to these genetic pollution and the environmental consequences of sourcing fish feed, and you have a catalogue of impending ecological disasters.”

IFFO’s Neil Auchterlonie wrote a detailed response to the article:

 “Having spent many years in Scottish Aquaculture, the description you provide of a Salmon farm is unlike any farm I have ever seen in my career and I would question if it exists. The information presented on fishmeal production completely misses the point that the (fishmeal) industry is highly regulated, heavily engaged with sustainability agenda, and is a sector where annual volumes of certification of the product is at a high level relative to other feed ingredients.  The global annual production is relatively stable at approximately 5 million tonnes of fishmeal and 1 million tonnes of fish oil, outside of years where El Nino events occur in the South Pacific.  Our industry is engaged with the fish farming sector and NGOs to raise standards and communicate to consumers which are the better choices available.

Your reference to there being no wild fish left by 2048 is based on a 2006 paper that the lead author (Boris Worm) later complained was misrepresented to grab headlines. The extrapolation projected catches in the last century forward to 2048 and did not take into account improving fishery science and management regimes that are now restoring many major fishery stocks.”

Read the full letter here.

2. The Salt - '90 Percent Of Fish We Use For Fishmeal Could Be Used To Feed Humans Instead'

“In a new study out Monday in the journal Fish and Fisheries, researchers say that the vast majority of fishmeal is actually made up of fish deemed suitable for direct human consumption. Currently, a quarter of the world's commercially caught fish, 20 million tons of wild seafood, is directed away from our dinner plates every year, and instead, is used for fishmeal production. Researchers say a whopping 90 percent of that catch is considered "food grade" and could be eaten directly, potentially creating an important source of nutrition for those in developing countries at risk of food insecurity.”

IFFO's Andrew Mallison responded with a letter to the author:

Thank you for your article on the use of fish for direct human consumption (DHC) or as ingredient for animal feed. As you mentioned, the types of fish that are caught but not used for DHC are usually the unwanted varieties (for good reason) and I agree “unwanted” can and does change. I read the paper you quoted, which estimates the amount of fish caught for Direct Human Consumption (DHC) and for conversion into Fishmeal and Fish Oil (FMFO) and questions whether the percentage of fish for DHC could be increased. Due to the basic assumption that fish is better consumed directly than indirectly (e.g. the use of fishmeal in farmed animals, including farmed fish, diets) and that much of the fish is of a quality suitable for DHC, there is a prima facie case raised for increasing the quantity of global catch used for DHC.

However, this question has been asked many times and is well researched. In reality, free market forces regulate the ratio between uses. Returns for the fishers are typically greater when selling to DHC and this trend is acknowledged in the paper, quoting 30% of catch in the 1990’s going for FMFO reducing to around 18% by 2010, a trend we expect to continue. The reduction in whole fish entering FMFO production has been offset by an increased recovery of processing by-product, to the extent that around 35% of the total raw material used to produce FMFO is now from recycled waste products. Many companies that process FMFO also produce products for DHC where possible, allowing a rapid response to divert raw material to DHC as markets emerge.

Read the full letter here.

3. Intrafish article series drilling down the use of marine ingredients in the aquaculture industry

Intrafish published an interesting series of articles discussing the availability and use of marine ingredients, as well as looking at alternatives to them.  Rachel Mutter closed the series with ‘Balancing the industry's approach to sustainable feed’, examining the issue of certification in the fishmeal and oil industry, where future sources might come from and what role it should play in the future of aquaculture feed.  She concluded by noting that “it is also imperative that whatever supplements become the mainstream, the health of the fish and the health-giving properties of the end-product do not suffer. Aquaculture's whole future is reliant on being a sustainable, healthy, affordable protein, and the role of sustainable, healthy, affordable feed is key to its success.”

IFFO’s Andrew Mallison wrote a letter to add to the discussions in this series.

“I am not going to complain about the unfortunate tendency for those selling the alternatives to confuse sustainability with continuity of supply. Sustainability, or lack of, is cited as a justification for moving away from marine ingredients to their proposed new solution, whereas the real issue is providing continuity of supply for the future. As regards actual sustainability, the marine ingredients industry has an excellent record and can claim a far higher percentage of independently certified, responsibly produced sources than any of the alternatives. At the last count, over 40% of global production of marine ingredients is independently certified to be from responsible raw materials, safe, legal and traceable with more in the pipeline.

What I am going to ask is that we now move on from idea that fishmeal and fish oil have to be automatically replaced. Your series of articles did a great job of explaining the options available to, and needs of, the industry. However, the industry is not best served by the trend for the accepted need for more feed ingredients to somehow morph into a campaign to substitute instead of supplement.”

Read the full letter here.

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