Aquaculture species are net producers of fish
A new method based on the principle of economic allocation showed that most aquaculture species groups assessed in this study are net producers of fish, while salmon and trout aquaculture are net neutral, producing as much fish biomass as is consumed.
The recently published SOFIA report yet again highlights the importance of using the valuable resources from our oceans in the most strategic and efficient way. These are needed to provide the recommended amount of protein to a growing population while keeping environmental impacts of food production systems as low as possible. “Fish and fisheries products are actually recognized not only as some of the healthiest foods on the planet, but also as some of the less impactful on the natural environment,” stated the report.
This balance is made possible through increasing fisheries management efforts resulting, as stated by the FAO, in “decreasing in average fishing pressure and increasing in average stock biomass.” This balance is also enabled by an increasing use of byproducts in fishmeal and fish oil used as aquafeeds (estimated at 25–35%, according to FAO figures) as well as targeted utilization strategies in feeds.
How we measure and communicate this is a complicated challenge faced by the marine ingredients industry. A recent ‘Fish as feed’ research report, which IFFO contributed to, presents a new method based on the principle of economic allocation (economic Fish In: Fish Out – eFIFO) as commonly used in life cycle assessments. Economic allocation acts as a proxy for the nutritional value of ingredients and places higher importance on the more limiting co-products generated and their relative demand. Results show that most aquaculture species groups assessed in this study are net producers of fish, while salmon and trout aquaculture are net neutral, producing as much fish biomass as is consumed.
IFFO supports this discussion through a research paper commissioned to Richard Newton from the Stirling University which stresses that both the responsible sourcing and edible yield of the products should be considered. As with all natural ingredients, there is variation between the species used in marine ingredients and a one size fits all approach of measuring that does not work to assess what it takes to generate farmed fish. Focus should instead be on how we identify these differences and strategically allocate their usage in the most efficient way so that the correct feed is used for specific species when they need it.