Aquaculture America 2009 Preview: NMFS Focuses on Alternative Feed

Published on
February 11, 2009

Researching alternative feedstuffs for aquaculture production is a major focus of the National Marine Fisheries Service’s aquaculture program this year, says Michael Rubino, the program’s director, who’s speaking at the Aquaculture America conference in Seattle, starting this weekend.

The World Aquaculture Society’s Aquaculture America 2009 conference addresses many major industry issues including feed, offshore aquaculture, organic aquaculture and the health benefits of farmed fish.

"Finding sources of feed other than fish oil is necessary for the aquaculture industry to thrive," said Rubino.

“The price of fish oil has doubled in the past year, so that tells you there is limited supply. Everybody agrees that alternative feedstuffs is where we need to go,” said Rubino.

While fish oil is an “ideal” diet for certain kinds of fish, the industry is researching alternatives such as fish trimmings, yeasts and vegetable oils.

“Fishmeal and fish oil are the completed Rubik’s cube for fish. When you start replacing those … you have to figure out the right combination,” said Rubino.

NMFS’ aquaculture program plans to publish a white paper on promising alternative feedstuffs sometime this spring. The paper, which would likely be published in a peer-reviewed journal, is the result of a stakeholders meeting last spring with the aquaculture program, fishmeal producers, environmental organizations and others.

While congressional funding for aquaculture research and development is vital, Rubino is unsure how much funding the new administration and Congress will provide for research grants.

“Last year, our competitive grants program was roughly $4.88 million. This year, we are not sure what the amount will be because Congress has not passed the budget,” said Rubino.

In addition, it is unclear how the National Offshore Aquaculture Act of 2007, which federally regulates open ocean aquaculture, will progress this year, he added.

“There is a need for marine aquaculture legislation. The Senate Commerce Committee staff and the House staff have various drafts of the bill that they have been considering over the past couple of years. It is up to the stakeholders and Congress to decide what to do going forward,” said Rubino.

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