US - Development of emerging technologies to use less forage fish in salmon feed

New technologies are in the works to make salmon feed using less or no forage fish. They include the emerging use of insect meal and the development of genetic technologies such as CRISPR, which could work to modify a plant like false flax to produce more Omega-3 or modify a salmon to accept a plant form of Omega-3.
May 17, 2018

Wild salmon eat mostly wild fish, pink krill and plankton, but that’s not on the menu for the salmon that will be grown inside buildings at two new midcoast aquaculture facilities that are on the drawing board in Belfast and Bucksport.

“The sustainable sourcing issues are an interesting challenge that’s important to solve,” said Erik Heim, CEO of the Nordic Aquafarms project in Belfast. “We don’t want to empty the ocean to feed our fish.”

“The feed industry is moving forward on sustainability,” he said. “There is some research work going on right now using commercial insect production as a sustainable feed source.”

A 2016 IUCN policy paper on the sustainability of fish feed in aquaculture reveals what is under way in order to make aquafeed for salmon without the forage fish. Or, at least, with fewer of them.

Beyond rubber and beer is the new world of precisely snipping and slicing small parts of the genome to get an organism to perform differently, a biomolecular technology known in the popular press as CRISPR.

CRISPR slices genes that are already part of an organism to enhance its natural capabilities or reduce disease. CRISPR doesn’t introduce foreign DNA so, technically, CRISPR does not produce a genetically modified organism (GMO).

Here’s how it could work for salmon, according to the IUCN, and analysis by Professor Ashild Krogdahl, who does veterinary medicine research at the Norwegian University of Life Sciences in Oslo.

She spoke generally about how CRISPR could work to modify a plant like false flax to produce more Omega-3 or modify a salmon to accept a plant form of Omega-3.

 “Really, the conversation about GMO or non-GMO is changing over here right now because of CRISPR,” said Krogdahl, referring to the European Union. The EU generally does not allow GMO feed.

Could the aquafeed be organic and non-GMO certified (with CRISPR enhancements) and still be detrimental to wild fish stocks?

 “Look, the ocean is exploited to the full limit,” she said. “And fish is the most efficient food production system on the planet for protein. It is the best utilization, not quite one to one.”

The little fatty fish meal component in salmon aquafeed is likely to continue to be essential, said Krogdahl, but be a smaller percentage of the overall mix.

 “I think it can drop to 10 percent soon,” she said. “Five percent is possible.”

 “We can and should be fishing for the small fish that aren’t used for human consumption and use them for animal feed,” said Krogdahl. “What else will we use it for?”

Meanwhile, Krogdahl’s institute is researching the use of fly larvae for protein, something that is now in the beginning commercial stages in Holland.

 “Salmon eat flies, so closer to the real thing,” she said.

Nordic Aquafarms will not decide on a feed until 2019, but is looking at Skretting as a possible supplier. Skretting is one of the largest feed suppliers in the world and already supplies Maine farms with non-GMO feed. Heim uses Skretting feed in the Danish facility where he grows King Fish, a sushi fish.

Source: The Free Press, Maine // Original Article