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NOAA and USDA Accepting Public Comment on Aquaculture Feeds

The National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) and the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) are soliciting information and ideas on ways to lessen dependence on fish-based feeds for the aquaculture industry. The public comment period closes on February 29th 2008

January 31, 2008

NOAA and USDA Accepting Public Comment on Aquaculture Feeds

The National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) and the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) are soliciting information and ideas on ways to lessen dependence on fish-based feeds for the aquaculture industry. The public comment period, which closes on February 29th 2008, is the first step of a broad, year-long program that will include public, stakeholder and scientific consultations aimed at eventually developing new and effective ingredients for aquafeed.

"Forty percent of the seafood consumed in the United States comes from farmed sources, so we have a keen interest in making sure that aquaculture production is efficient and environmentally responsible," said Bill Hogarth, director of NOAA Fisheries Service. "Our program will identify science needs on alternative feeds for aquaculture."

Producers feed pellets to farm-raised fish and shrimp that are made in part from ground-up herring, menhaden, anchovy, and sardines, the so-called industrial fish. These small, bony species provide farmed seafood with important protein, fatty acids and essential vitamins and minerals.

The issue of feed ingredients is a challenge facing the expanding global aquaculture industry because industrial fish are under increasing pressure as a commercial fishery worldwide. The cost of fish meal has risen steeply as farming operations have increased. In 2002, 46 percent of fishmeal went to aquaculture uses, while 22 percent went to poultry and 24 percent went to pigs. The amount of available fish meal and fish oil is not likely to increase, so producers must find other sources of nutrients as the aquaculture industry continues to grow. In response, industry is turning to other feed ingredients as varied as algae and soybeans, in order to reduce the use of fishmeal and fish oil. Studies are helping scientists to better understand the nutritional requirements of fish to ensure new feeds effectively grow seafood that retains nutritional benefits for humans. Scientists are also interested in making better use of discarded fish parts from fish processing plants for feeds, in addition to using a variety of potential ingredients from agriculture.

Specifically, NOAA and USDA are are seeking responses in following areas: (1) Groundbreaking research on alternative dietary ingredients (feedstuffs) for aquaculture, including plant based proteins, is expanding the United States and worldwide.  Where should the federal government focus its research efforts in the area of alternative feeds for aquaculture? Are there specific areas that the federal government should not address? (2) What are potential alternative sources of protein and oil for aquaculture feeds? For example, are there specific opportunities for greater use of seafood processing waste and other agricultural by-products in aquaculture feeds? Are there specific obstacles to using these alternatives as alternative dietary ingredients in aquaculture feed? (3) What type of treatments or processes show promise for improvement of existing aquaculture feedstuffs and for developing new feedstuffs?  How soon could these technologies be commercialized? (4) Fish meal and fish oil contribute important human nutritional components to aquaculture feeds such as omega 3 fatty acids.  As the aquaculture feeds industry seeks to replace fish meal and fish oil with alternatives, how can the nutritional benefits of farmed seafood be maintained or enhanced? For example, what technologies exist for producing omega 3 fatty acids?

To submit a question, idea, or recommendation on alternative feeds for aquaculture, stakeholders should send an e-mail to: noaa.aquaculture@noaa.gov; send a fax to: 301-713-9108; or, send a letter to: NOAA Aquaculture Program, Alternative Feeds Initiative, 1315 East-West Highway, Room 13117, Silver Spring, MD 20910. The deadline for comments is February 29, 2008.

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