IFFO sets the record straight

Published on
September 27, 2009

The International Fishmeal and Fish Oil Organization (IFFO) is always on the defensive, correcting misinformation on the fish-in-fish-out (FIFO) ratio for farmed salmon.

Earlier this month, the IFFO refuted comments by Stanford University professor Rosamond Naylor, lead author of the report "Feeding aquaculture in an era of finite resources," which was funded by the Packard Foundation. In the report, she said, "It can take up to 5 pounds of wild fish to produce 1 pound of salmon."

SeafoodSource caught up with IFFO Technical Director Andrew Jackson to ask why his UK-based organization is constantly rectifying misinformation on the FIFO ratio publicized by environmental NGOs.

"It is very disappointing to see that the important discussion about the best use of finite supplies of fishmeal and fish oil is again being distorted by the erroneous five-to-one statement," said Jackson.

"In reality, it takes less than 2 pounds of wild feed fish to produce 1 pound of salmon. Globally, fed aquaculture uses just half a ton of wild fish for each ton of farmed seafood produced. In short, fed aquaculture produces twice as much fish as it uses," he explained.

"It is hard work getting NGOs to listen to our side of the story, and they do not want too much science, so it has to be kept simple. And it isn't simple. NGOs are stuck on the FIFO ratio, which is the number of kilos of wild fish it takes to produce 1 kilo of farmed fish," said Jackson.

"Salmon are less efficient than some other species because their diets contain large amounts of fishmeal and fish oil," he added. "However, the way that Naylor et al chose to calculate FIFO is not logical, as the weight of whole fish removed from the sea for aquaculture use does not tie in with the amount of fishmeal and fish oil produced. It also paints salmon in a particularly bad light."

IFFO's own calculations take into account that 25 percent-plus of the raw material used to produce fishmeal and fish oil is recycled trimmings from fish processing, which would otherwise have to be disposed of at high environmental and financial cost, said Jackson. More importantly, they take into account that there is no waste of the resource. Fishmeal left over from oil production for salmon feed can be used for shrimp or carp, for example, and oil left over from production of meal for shrimp or carp, can be used for salmon, he added.

Using IFFO's method of calculation results in an FIFO for salmon of 1.7:1 and falling, with the ratio for all fed aquaculture at 0.5:1 and falling.

The report also calls for feed-fisheries managers to be addressed, but Jackson said that responsible and sustainable management is already being addressed vigorously and scientifically by government, marine research institutes and the companies whose businesses depend on maintaining healthy fish stocks.

"A recent University of British Columbia study ranked 53 countries by sustainability of their fisheries. Peru, where the anchovy fishery is the world's largest fishery and the source of 30 percent of the world's fishmeal, came top," said Jackson.

"We are also doing our best to ensure that feed fisheries are prosecuted responsibly and sustainably by developing a third-party, audited, business-to-business Global Standard for Responsible Supply covering sourcing, traceability and safety," he said. "The first companies are now undergoing their supplier audits, and we expect certified feed to be available early in the New Year."

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