February 10, 2018

Fishmeal defended as 'sustainable'


The fishmeal and fish oil industry has become defensive after an article, which it described as "damaging to the fish farming industry", came out in a prestigious magazine this week.

The article, entitled "Why Salmon Eating Insects Instead of Fish Is Better for Environment" and published on Feb. 5, discusses fishmeal and fish oil replacement with insect-based protein in salmon feed by a Netherlands-based company.

The director-general of the Marine Ingredients Organisation (IFFO), Andrew Mallison, came out with a response Thursday, saying that the article "quotes information that is both out-of-date and incorrect". 

"Although we agree with the need for additional feed options in aquaculture to ensure the growth of this vital industry, the total replacement of fishmeal and fish oil, as called for in this article, is unjustified and damaging to the fish farming industry", Mallison said.

Mallison debunked claims that the practice of feeding fish to fish was inefficient and unsustainable. "I would argue that responsibly sourced and used strategically, fishmeal and fish oil are both an efficient and sustainable feed choice. The growing management of wild capture fisheries has ensured that in recent years stocks are in fact steady and not declining".

He said some small pelagic species that are not so palatable, spoil quickly and are less popular than other local fish are the ones that are being turned into highly nutritious feed.

'Safe and environmentally responsible'

He added that over 45% of the global production of fishmeal and fish oil was independently certified as being safe and environmentally responsible, including in its sourcing of raw materials. The figure, he claimed, "far exceeds any other source of feed ingredient".

With regards to the efficiency of the use of fishmeal and fish oil, Mallison said their latest FIFO ((Fish In:Fish Out ratios) using 2015 data showed that the conversion rate of 1 kilogramme of wild fish used in feed created 1.22 kg of farmed salmon. This demonstrated, he added, that "farmed salmon now produce globally more consumable protein than is used in feed".

"This ratio is significantly lower than the out-of-date figures quoted in the article", he said.

He also insisted that "while insect meal may be a theoretical alternative, the production of the millions of tonnes needed to replace fishmeal is currently not viable".

At the same time, he admitted that there "is an opportunity for alternative ingredients like insect meal without needing to displace fishmeal".  Rick Alberto