April 29, 2019


FMFO industry defends harvesting of fish from the wild for fishmeal


The international fishmeal and fish-oil industry recently issued a response to the report "Until the seas run dry: How industrial aquaculture is plundering the ocean" by the Changing Markets Foundation.


The report hit major aquafeed producers for allegedly harvesting millions of tonnes of fish from the wild every year to produce fishmeal and fish oil (FMFO), which are key ingredients of farmed-fish feeds, and threatening food security and risking a collapse of marine life.


In response to the report, the Marine Ingredients Organisation (IFFO) claimed that the report ignored the facts and realities of the fishmeal and fish oil sector.


"The majority of wild-caught fish is responsibly sourced and is an essential resource in support of global protein production. Moreover the use of trimmings and byproduct from seafood processing represents at least 33% of total world fishmeal production, that would otherwise predominantly go to landfill", said Petter Martin Johannessen, director general of IFFO, whose members in more than 50 countries account for over 60% of world production and 80% of the fishmeal and fish oil traded worldwide.


IFFO said the availability of responsibly sourced raw material is an essential resource in support of global protein production. "Global aquaculture converts this resource into edible protein that shows a very marked multiplier effect, where approximately 5 million tonnes of fishmeal every year contributes to approximately 23 million tonnes of aquaculture, as well as several million tonnes of pork and poultry, not to mention all the pets and human beings that also benefit from the consumption of other products including omega-3 oils".


Supportive of positive change


IFFO admitted that there are some regions in the world where there may still be challenges in the responsible sourcing of material for fishmeal and fish-oil production, but that it supports positive change. "IFFO regularly funds projects (along with another global not-for-profit organization [the Global Aquaculture Alliance]) to look at the situation on the ground and see where positive change may be made", it said.


Neil Auchterlonie, IFFO technical director, said, in response to the report's recommendation that the aquafeed industry stop using wild-caught fish: "[W]hy should the aquafeed industry stop using wild-caught fish when the majority of this material is responsibly-sourced?"


"Neglecting what is an important, renewable, natural resource for food production will have major implications for global food production and security", he added.  


The report also recommended that the aquaculture industry focus on species that do not require feed, or species that may utilise a vegetarian diet. 


This, however, "ignores the realities of the economics of aquaculture whereby the industry is only effective when it produces a product for which there is an actual market for the fish that people want to eat", Auchterlonie said.


"Moreover", he added, "the production of marine ingredients like fishmeal and fish oil do not require the same levels of fresh water for irrigation, treatment with agricultural chemicals such as fertilizers and pesticides, or use land needed to grow crops".


Reduce fish consumption?


As for the recommendation that consumers "reduce fish consumption", IFFO said it "ignores the strength of the market for farmed seafood production and its great success in providing nutritious edible protein (e.g. farmed salmon and shrimp)". 


"[M]any countries around the world are struggling with aging populations, many of which will actually benefit from greater seafood consumption, not less" IFFO pointed out.


IFFO dismissed eliminating fishmeal and fish oil in farmed seafood production as "nonsensical", as well as the use of trimmings and byproduct from seafood processing, which account for at least 33% of total world fishmeal production.  "That is an effective use of a resource that would otherwise predominantly go to landfill", it said.


It will be recalled that in early February IFFO also defended the industry after an article titled "Why Salmon Eating Insects Instead of Fish Is Better for Environment" was published in a prestigious magazine.


Then IFFO director general Andrew Mallison said that while they agree with the need for additional feed options in aquaculture to ensure the growth of the industry, "the total replacement of fishmeal and fish oil, as called for in this article, is unjustified and damaging to the fish farming industry".


Debunking claims that the practice of feeding fish to fish was inefficient and unsustainable, he said then, "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".  —Rick Alberto

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