Debate grows heated at GOAL aquafeed sustainability panel

Published on
October 5, 2017

An aquafeed sustainability panel at GOAL 2017 in Dublin, Ireland, moderated by Dan Lee from Global Aquaculture Alliance (GAA), provided heated debate as panelists looked at the challenges for the industry over the next 20 years. 

Kevin Fitzsimmons from the University of Arizona, who heads up the F3 Fish-Free Feed Challenge, which announced its 2017 winner at GOAL of 4 October, explained that in order for the aquaculture industry to develop further, there is an urgent need to find alternative sources of protein. F3 is tackling that need with a challenge that has been well subscribed to.

“We already have soy products, grains, innovative single cell proteins and insect meals, but we need to find more nutrients that are easily absorbed,” he said. “IFFO, the Marine Ingredients Organisation, is reforming the fishmeal and fish oil industry by cutting out overfishing, illegal, unreported and unregulated (IUU) catch, forced labour and unsafe working practices, but all of these things serve to push up the cost of the product and ultimately to reduce the volume available.”  

Andrew Mallison from IFFO, taking exception to Fitzsimmons “demonization” of the industry, said he was disappointed that F3 continued to use negative messaging about fishmeal and fish oil, together with exaggeration and misinformation about marine ingredients.

“F3 claims that marine ingredients are not sustainable but this is not borne out by UN Food and Agriculture Organisation figures. We now have 45 percent of the world’s fishmeal and fish oil independently certified as being safe and environmentally responsible, and this far exceeds any other source of feed ingredients,” he said. “In addition, the cost of production came down last year and will continue to do so as we get better at recovering biproducts. We expect to be using 50 percent biproducts within a few years, up from 35 percent today.”

Mallison acknowledged that marine supply will not meet demand, but welcomed alternatives into the fold.

“We want to widen choice, not narrow it,” he said.

Addressing criticism that the fish used to produce fishmeal and fish oil would be better used for human consumption, Mallison explained that both the Peruvian government and the private sector had spent millions of dollars to attract interest in eating small pelagic fish, especially anchovy, but uptake remained very low, with people preferring species such as mackerel and bonito instead. 

Josh Silverman, speaking for Calysta, explained that his company saw itself as co-producers with the marine ingredients industry. Producing high-quality protein, FeedKind, from methane, was an exciting development because it sidesteps conventional terrestrial systems. 

“We have a long history with the Norwegian salmon market, and in recent trials with trout and Japanese yellowtail, have found better performance, lower food conversion ratios (FCRs), better gut health, and increased disease resistance. We have also noted an increase in biomass of up to 20 percent in Penaeus vannamei fed on Feed Kind,” he said. 

Soy products were introduced by Jim Sutter from the U.S. Soybean Export Council (USSEC), who also leapt to confirm his own industry’s wish to collaborate with all providers of aquaculture feed ingredients.  

“We have worked hard over decades to ensure that our soy producers use sustainable practises such as minimum till to reduce soil erosion and crop rotation, and to grow soy with enhanced amino acid profiles,” he said. 

Producers subscribe to USSEC’s own benchmarked sustainability certification scheme. 

Walt Rakitsky from Corbion, formerly TerraVia, said his firm to become a critical producer in the industry with its product AlgaPrime, a new feed ingredient that is high in omega 3 DHA.

“We transform sugarcane and sugar beet into oils using bioconversion of marine microalgae, and end up with a very high quality DHA rich product,” he said. “Our large-scale fermentation process using this renewable energy can produce AlgaPrime economically at scale, making us one of the lowest-cost sources of new omega 3 products. Trials with BioMar have shown the product to be an excellent ingredient in fish feed.”

An audience poll showed that two-thirds saw the main issue for aquaculture over the next decade as the need for high-quality feed ingredients for aquaculture, with environmental concerns rated in second place. New ingredients should come from many new sources, and industry needs to work harder to address sustainability concerns through a redoubling of efforts on certification, multi stakeholder supply chain initiatives, and an expansion of certification programs to cover social issues.

Want seafood news sent to your inbox?