IFFO has released the following statement in response to the F3 Challenge:
While we congratulate the finalists and winners of the HeroX F3 competition (some of whom are IFFO members), we are disappointed that the credibility of this initiative to encourage alternative sources of feed ingredients has been damaged by the organisers’ use of negative messaging, exaggeration and misinformation in relation to marine ingredients.
IFFO is on record as acknowledging the need for a wide range of responsibly sourced and high quality feed ingredients to support the continued growth of the aquaculture industry. We accept that the supply of marine ingredients cannot meet the demand and that alternative ingredients are needed. The reduction in inclusion rates has allowed feed production volumes to continue to increase unhindered, also resulting in only 0.22kg of ingoing fish being needed to grow 1kg of farmed fish, for the most recent calculation based on 2015 data. In contrast to IFFO’s broader position, the F3 organisers’ intention has been to encourage the exclusion of marine ingredients from use in farmed fish feed, reducing choices for feed companies. Although, confusingly, their website states that they are not against the use of fish based raw materials, this is statement is far less prominent than the title of the competition and their statements in the media.
Unfortunately, the F3 challenge organisers have refused our offers to enter into dialogue or meet and provide up-to-date facts, instead choosing to seek publicity through a number of misleading or false statements.
Principal among these are that marine ingredients are not sustainable. The organisers claim many of the world’s wild fish stocks are in rapid decline – a claim not borne out by the UN Food and Agriculture Organisation reports that show, since 1986, that global wild capture fisheries have been steady and are not declining. While catches of some small pelagic species used to produce fishmeal and fish oil are volatile, this is due to environmental fluctuation with permitted catches being varied in line with biomass abundance to protect the stocks. They also claim that the most common method for setting harvest control rules (Maximum Sustainable Yield) is an economic measure and does not take into account environmental or ecological constraints. This is clearly untrue, as the definitions from ICES and the OECD show.
Further evidence of sustainability in the production of marine ingredients is that over 45% of the global production of fishmeal and fish oil is now independently certified as being safe and environmentally responsible, including in its sourcing of raw materials, a figure that far exceeds any other source of feed ingredient.
Other claims include that the catch of small pelagic species impacts other marine mammals and seabirds, a claim disproven by a recent study by the University of Washington who found very poor correlation between population trends of marine mammals and abundance of forage fish species, including the Californian sea lions’ predation on sardines cited by the organisers.
The most recent example of the false claims made by the organisers is a quote attributed to F3’s Dr Kevin Fitzsimmons that “In many countries, the fishmeal industry is responsible for forced labour, mistreatment of employees, and fishing from substandard fishing vessels with very high rates of injury and deaths.” This exaggerates distressing but fortunately limited examples of human rights abuses reported in South East Asian fisheries, a region that only represents around 12% of the global fishmeal production. In this region, fishing activities are not well regulated but are not directed to the production of fishmeal – the catch being segregated only on landing between human consumption and fishmeal. It is therefore not possible for the fishmeal industry to be “responsible” for the abuses on board fishing vessels. Despite this, the industry is engaged in several initiatives to prevent these abuses and is working with other stakeholders and partners. Given this accusation, it is surprising that the F3 prize giving criteria make no reference to social standards in the production of alternative ingredients entering the competition.
Most farmed fish species are evolved to digest fish protein and replacement of this with terrestrial or other sources of protein can lead to fish gut inflammation and a risk of disease, potentially requiring antibiotic or other treatments, or mortality. An increasing amount (currently 35%) of fishmeal is produced from recycled by-product and waste from fish processing. Removing fish as an ingredient to feed can therefore be damaging to the health of the fish and close an environmentally friendly way of recycling waste products. When it is clear that the amount of fishmeal and fish oil is not sufficient to meet the growing demand for feed manufacture and the raw material sources for feed should be maximised, it makes little sense to exclude these valuable, responsibly sourced and highly effective ingredients.
Fish-free feeds have been available for many years for mainly vegetarian species like Tilapia and Carp. It is also well known that piscivorous species like Salmon and Trout can be raised on vegetable based diets, although their growth and health may be compromised. The F3 competition ignores fish health, mitigates against recycling of fish processing waste, promotes untruths and has not resulted in any true innovation. It is a great shame that those well-meaning contributors to the prize fund have been misled by this misguided campaign.