To comment on this blog, you must be logged in as a member. If you are already a member, log in here. If you’re not a member, click here to activate your complimentary membership.
The fish meal myth
Monday,21 March,2011 21:47:55
The use of fish meal (and fish oil) as a component of aquaculture feeds is in some quarters controversial. Some believe that global aquaculture feed production is resulting in or may result in depletion of the wild fishery resource with a potential domino effect. In fact, the production of fish meal and fish oil from fishery derived sources has been fairly constant for decades. What has changed is that marine animals are being fed a larger percentage of the available resource, which makes sense given the incredible growth of this agribusiness. Among the benefits has been an increased production of fish meal and oil as a byproduct of the aquaculture industry; recycling in a manner.
We have also seen a reduction in inclusion rates in aquaculture diets. This reduction has largely been driven by economics, not efforts by those who insist that inclusion rates must be as low as possible and who define sustainable aquaculture production as being low or no fish meal utilization in feed. The trend is for this to continue to decline as alternative sources of these nutrients become more widely available and the price of fish meal and fish oil continues to increase. This increase in price has not resulted in companies increasing fishing. On the contrary, some of the largest producers are looking at third party validation of the sustainability of their practices and they recognize the need to keep fishing at sustainable levels. Demand for this limited resource has resulted in typical commodity supply economics with prices going up, making inclusion costly and the search for viable substitutes critical.
Some certification schemes include a consideration of fish in and fish out ratios with a clearly stated goal of further reducing this. In my opinion this is not needed, as the industry will regulate itself and economics will dictate pricing, inclusion rates and what species can afford to be reared with higher levels of inclusion. Aquaculture is here to stay. It is not going away and it is highly unlikely that there will be a focus only on non-carnivorous species.
Economics is a powerful force and while there are many examples where overfishing has decimated fish stocks, fish meal production is not one of these. Sustainable aquaculture production requires finding suitable alternatives and there are many possible sources, ranging from animal rendering byproducts to algae to various plant meals to bacterial sources. Feed is the major cost component in production and as feed ingredients go up in cost, so does the cost of production. What the consumer is willing to pay is not always as closely related to this as many wish. This will drive sustainability. Fish that cost too much will not find markets or the margins will be inadequate to justify continued production. Companies that want to stay in business will find less expensive ways to produce the same products without negatively impacting the marketability.
Watch a video interview about the future of fish feed conducted at the 2011 International Boston Seafood Show >
All SeafoodSource blogs >