IFFO head: Aquaculture growth portends bright future for marine ingredients industry

A veteran of Cargill’s aquafeed trading wing, Petter M. Johannessen last year took over as director general of IFFO, which represents global fishmeal and fish oil producers and their trade associates. The London, United Kingdom-based organization will hold its 59th annual conference on 4 to 6 November, 2019, in Shanghai, China, at a time of rising Chinese demand for feed inputs, but also increased interest in alternatives to fishmeal and fish oil. Johannessen spoke to SeafoodSource about preparations for the Shanghai meeting, and more broadly, the state of the industry. 

SeafoodSource: What are the priorities for the upcoming IFFO annual conference in Shanghai?

Johannessen: Our priority is to communicate clearly the marine ingredients industry’s position as a vital part of the global food production system. We continue to grow out of the marine ingredients industry need for collaboration, information, and shared problem-solving. While contributing to feeding a growing population with protein, we also want to continue to address the ever-present need for more transparency and collaboration, not just with marine ingredients themselves but throughout value chains. 

This annual conference is dedicated to strategic thinking on the industry's contribution to the future of food. Environmental, social, and economic focuses will be addressed in the light of the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals, especially the Preserving Life Below Water Goal (SDG 14). We’ll look at the ways that digital tools such as blockchains and New B2C distribution channels of fresh seafood are transforming the industry and the whole value chain. 

We’ll also communicate the outcomes of our collaborative programs of research to inform the industry about the latest trends regarding fishmeal and fish oil, including the relative impacts of the production and supply of land and marine ingredients and the different sources of EPA and DHA for aquafeed.

SeafoodSource: How is IFFO contributing to efforts to address SDG14?

Johannessen: Meeting SDG14 is a collective effort. Through IFFO’s technical research projects, new swathes of the industry are being investigated to provide information where it is missing and call for collaboration. Here are a few examples: IFFO and the Global Aquaculture Alliance published a report this year to make a number of recommendations in encouraging the attainment of IFFO RS [IFFO sustainability certification program] via the Improver Programme, the role of FIPs [Fisheries Improvement Programs] in general and maintaining an understanding of the developments in fisheries management in the region. The aim of the project is to provide information and data to help understanding of the issue of risk associated with plastics and fishmeal and fish oil production. Another ongoing project aims to provide information and data to help understanding of the issue of risk associated with plastics and fishmeal and fish oil production.

SeafoodSource: What are some of the other outcomes from these collaborative programs?

Johannessen: Minimizing the environmental footprint of aquafeeds has become a focus for many in the industry. IFFO has funded a project involving senior scientists from the U.S., U.K., and Sweden to investigate the relative impacts of the production and supply of land and marine ingredients. The analyses are still underway and the aim is to have a peer-reviewed paper published in an international journal in 2020 so that there can be a more informed debate about the choices that are increasingly confronting producers who want to reduce their impact on the world’s resources.

The global supply of the omega-3 fatty acids, EPA, and DHA acids from all current traditional sources like fish oil is insufficient to satisfy human nutritional requirements. The IFFO Conference in Shanghai will provide an overview of the current gap between supply and demand, the role of aquaculture, the range of potential novel sources, and suggest how additional products could be used effectively supplementary to the annual available volume of fish oil.

SeafoodSource: A recent FAO/OECD report predicts that the price of fishmeal in 2028 will increase by 58 percent on the 2005 level. What does that mean for consumers, such as the aquaculture sector? 

Johannessen: IFFO cannot comment on future price estimates for legal reasons, but the reality is that the price of fishmeal and fish oil reflects the high quality of the nutritional contribution that these materials supply to feed. The supply and demand of marine ingredients such as fishmeal and fish oil will decide the future cost of product. Aquaculture contributes more and more to feeding the world’s population with highly nutritious products. To continue facing these needs, a growing aquaculture will also in the future rely on continued stable supply of quality feeds with healthy and highly nutritious ingredients, such as fishmeal and fish oil.

SeafoodSource: The nature of fishmeal and fish oil appears to make it a finite resource. Given the rising demand in Asia for carnivorous species like salmon, croaker, and grouper in place of the herbivorous species like carp, is it possible future limits on supply might affect pricing of fishmeal and fish oil?

Johannessen: Price fluctuates with supply, yes, as is the usual situation with feed materials. Fishmeal and fish oil achieve a premium fundamentally because they hold a higher nutritional value than other ingredients. That nutritional value is a major factor in how the market is determining the price. Fishmeal and fish oil are a very cost-effective way of meeting farmed fish nutritional requirements. 

Also, it is important that the public understands the multiplier effect of protein production that results from the use of marine ingredients in aquafeed and aquaculture. These are the cornerstones of modern aquaculture as we know it. That less than 11 million tons of wild fish used supports the production of over 44 million tonnes of farmed fish is a fantastic achievement in terms of providing food for human beings all around the world. The industry takes fish that people don’t want to eat – and their byproducts – and makes these into far more fish of a type that people do want.

An increasing amount of marine ingredients [are] produced from byproducts that are left over after fish for direct human consumption have been processed, and IFFO estimates this to be one-third of annual raw material supply. 

Finally, there are also initiatives looking into how lower trophic levels of the sea can be harvested in a responsible way to secure availability to raw material for nutritious ingredients to meet the growing need for healthy proteins.

SeafoodSource: Will the projected price increase mean there will be an accelerated push to alternatives?

Johannessen: As aquaculture has grown rapidly over the past two decades, there has already been a significant supplementation of fishmeal in aquafeeds in order to extend the annual production across a growing aquafeed requirement. At this time, soy is the most-used additional ingredient to fishmeal in aquatic animal diets. Fishmeal, however, is a source of essential amino acids and other micronutrients, naturally reflecting the wild diet of many of the cultivated fish species. Fishmeal provides vitamins and minerals that other ingredients do not possess. 

As stated by the FAO, fishmeal and fish oil will be more frequently used as strategic ingredients to enhance growth at specific stages of fish or livestock production. Quality feed means quality food.

By 2030, global aquaculture production is expected to grow to 109 million tons (FAO, SOFIA 2018), which is up 21 million tons from 2019. This means that there equally will be a need for increased aquafeed volumes in the same period. To face this vital challenge on every continent, the marine ingredients industry is looking at additional marine ingredients that could complement fishmeal and fish oil while securing a continued sustainable growth of the aquaculture sector. 

One-third of fishmeal and fish oil today comes from byproducts, a share that is expected to increase over the coming years.

SeafoodSource: Can you share some examples of the additional marine ingredients you have been looking at recently?

Johannessen: A piece of work commissioned by IFFO with the University of Stirling reported in 2016. This was a desk study that looked at what could be the availability of all byproducts around the world, assuming that all the processed material from wild fisheries and aquaculture could be collected and used for fishmeal and fish oil production. That study estimated that, assuming collection to be possible, raw material supply would increase from circa 20 million tons per annum, to 35.8 million tons per annum. Although collection of all that material may not be realistically achievable, it does show the potential for additional production of fishmeal and fish oil.

SeafoodSource: Likewise, in regard to fish oil, the predicted increase (between 2005 and 2028) is 83 percent. What does that mean for the viability of industries that use fish oil as an input or ingredient?

Johannessen: Like for fishmeal, demand for fish oil will be high and remain a strategic ingredient because of its unmatched nutritional and health properties. Although historically considered just a way to provide energy to the fish, fish oil is now recognized as the most important and cost-efficient source of omega-3 fatty acids – key nutrients for the health of the fish and in turn for the consumers.

SeafoodSource: What kind of programs does IFFO have in place to increase the efficiency of fishmeal/oil production from the fish processing sector in China?

Johannessen: IFFO strengthened its focus on Asia 13 years ago, with the opening of an office in Beijing, China. IFFO interacts with the Chinese fishmeal and fish oil industry and promotes best practices, such as in fishery management and fishmeal production from fishery byproducts, through technical workshops held in China, through a close collaboration with [Shanghai-based market intelligence consultancy] JCI on market conferences in China, through regular field investigations to meet with Chinese producers, and through a multi-layer communication plan including a Chinese website, a Chinese monthly newsletter, and a public account of IFFO on WeChat. IFFO keeps good communication channels with China’s national associations, research institutions, and government organizations for information-sharing and facilitation provision whenever needed.

SeafoodSource: What are some examples of the topics IFFO covered recently in its technical workshops in China?

Johannessen: This year, IFFO organized a fishmeal technical workshop in Zhuhai, Guangdong Province, focusing on “fishmeal quality and safety and the integrity of fishmeal supply chain.” Five speakers gave presentations, and topics covered fishmeal market dynamics, processing and technology, safety and quality control, and standards and certification. It was obvious that the Chinese feed industry relies on the importance of marine ingredients in manufacturing high quality aquafeeds. The focus was very much on the importance of supply chain integrity in protecting the nutritional quality of fishmeal, in order to ensure that it use in aquafeeds is maintained at an optimal level. 

SeafoodSource: Several major Chinese aquafeed companies, such as Guangdong Evergreen, are working hard to find replacements to fishmeal and fish oil. Do you foresee a serious impact on demand for fishmeal if ingredients like algae, insects, or other marine ingredient alternatives continue to rise in popularity?

Johannessen: There is available to the global market every year roughly five million metric tons of fishmeal, and one million metric tons of fish oil. With restrictions in raw material availability, these volumes have been stable for almost two decades.

I think it is important with new initiatives to find responsibly-produced, safe, and nutritious raw materials that may be used as effective supplements to fishmeal and fish oil. There are already additional sources of ingredients available to the aqua industry in small volumes. Commercial volumes of supply are yet to be achieved and, in most instances, it will take a long time before there are meaningful volumes available at a scale of relevance to the aquafeed sector. 

As aquaculture needs to grow, it is, however, important to understand that these will only work as additional raw materials to fishmeal and fish oil, if and when becoming cost-efficient in food production. 

SeafoodSource: What kind of priorities does the IFFO have for 2020 in terms of promoting the sustainability of the marine ingredients industry?

Johannessen: IFFO works closely with global organizations and national governments on a diverse range of subjects relating to fisheries management and raw material supply, as well as feed and food safety. 

The development of the IFFO Global Standard for Responsible Supply (IFFO RS) has led to the marine ingredients industry becoming one of, if not the highest, independently certified feed ingredients industries, with 54.5 percent of all marine ingredients being IFFO RS-certified by the end of 2018. IFFO also supports and promotes the the IFFO RS Improver Programme (IP), which is driving improvements in fisheries globally that are less well-managed through a mechanism where fisheries that do not currently meet the IFFO RS requirements can work towards approval for certification along a structured and time-bound pathway. Apart from potentially increasing the volume of certified marine ingredients, this directly contributes to SDG14. 

In 2025, the world’s population will reach 8.1 billion. In a rapidly changing landscape with political instability, climate change, resource scarcity, and social inequality, we promote an open and responsible industry that is vital to the global food production system. 

IFFO RS is a whole separate entity and will also change name and profile by the end of this year. IFFO will bring its members into dialogue with the whole food supply chain and will work collectively with all stakeholders to provide assurances over the responsible supply of marine ingredients.

SeafoodSource: Given the state of overfishing in many oceans, how confident are you that in the sustainably sou

Johannessen: Certification exists in the industry, and this is an independent way of reviewing the production practices and the responsible sourcing of material. The standard in place for the industry already independently recognizes an estimated 54.5 percent of material to this level in 2019.

Production remains at around 6 million tons per year -roughly five million tons of fishmeal and 1 million tons of fish oil. And the peaks and troughs are related to climatological events such El Niño, rather than to depleted stocks. As shown by the independent NGO Sustainable Fisheries Partnership (SFP) in a report in 2018, 91 percent of the reduction fisheries analyzed were categorised as reasonably well-managed or better. 

We are keen to see the use of fishery improvement projects (FIPs) as a way of managing effective improvement over time for the countries where fisheries are not effectively well-managed. FIPs are based on getting all interested parties to work together.

SeafoodSource: Do you see any conflict of interest in the IFFO being a representative body for industry while also certifying the sustainability of this same industry?

Johannessen: IFFO RS Ltd. is a separate entity to IFFO. It is the standard holder for the IFFO RS standard that was developed through a multi-stakeholder forum that includes NGOs. It ensures independent certification of the scheme via third-party inspection and accreditation to internationally recognized standards such as ISO 17065. This is further endorsed through IFFO RS’s membership in ISEAL, the global membership association for credible sustainability standards. 

Photo courtesy of IFFO


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