IFFO, SFP convene roundtable to improve sustainability of global fishmeal, fish oil sector

Members of the global marine ingredients roundtable discuss the progress it has made so far.

Amidst the backdrop of continuing growth in global demand for fishmeal and fish oil products, IFFO, the international trade body that represents the marine ingredients industry, and the Sustainable Fisheries Partnership are advancing the sustainability of the sector through a pre-competitive platform that has engagement from across the sustainable seafood movement.

At the 2022 North Atlantic Seafood Forum in Bergen, Norway, on 22 June, stakeholders from the various groups involved with the Global Roundtable on Marine Ingredients – which include Olvea, BioMar, Cargill, Skretting, the Aquaculture Stewardship Council, Marin Trust, the Global Seafood Alliance, Nestlé, the Federation of European Aquaculture Producers, and the recently added Marine Stewardship Council – gave an update on the progress the roundtable has made since it was formed in October 2021.

Progress on the roundtable’s twin objectives of increasing the availability of responsibly sourced and produced marine ingredients and driving positive changes in the world’s reduction fisheries is advancing, according to its chair, Arní Mathiesen.

“This is against a background where we are experiencing and have been experiencing for a while competition for protein,” he said. “And now after the invasion of the Ukraine, we are in fact experiencing competition for food. This competition can be seen as the economic dimension of sustainability of value-creation and carrying capacity. But there is an increasing emphasis on the ecological dimension as well as the socio-economic dimension. And the members of the roundtable are committed to seeking improvements on these dimensions as well.”

Geographically, the roundtable’s initial efforts have been focused on West Africa and Southeast Asia. In Africa, it has zeroed in on working on improvements in fisheries based in Senegal, Mauritania, and the Gambia, with three main goals, aligned with the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization’s vision for the region. Those goals include directing regulatory efforts towards effective regional and national fishery management, including regular assessment of key stocks of fish and effective monitoring of harvest and post-harvest activities; Assessing and monitoring fish consumption, affordability, and importance for food security and nutrition; And promoting better fish-harvesting methods and more-efficient fish handling and processing to reduce bycatch and losses.

As part of those efforts, the roundtable has gotten involved with a fishery improvement project for small pelagics in Mauritania, according to Mathiesen.

“The Mauritania small pelagics fishery improvement project (FIP) is a tangible and long-term commitment by the seafood supply chain to drive positive changes in the small pelagic fisheries, which [our] members believe has the potential to create an enabling environment in which regulators feel confident to act,” Mathiesen said. “The roundtable is currently expanding regional due diligence efforts to better understand how member and related supply chains fit into the overall situation in West Africa, and what opportunities there are for roundtable members to best support improvements including refocusing supply chains for human consumption while maintaining high-quality byproducts for marine ingredients.”

In Southeast Asia, the roundtable is focused on efforts in Thailand, Vietnam, Cambodia, and Malaysia, working with local representatives in those countries to develop a project strengthening fisheries management and governance in the Gulf of Thailand. In June 2022, FAO applied for a grant from the Global Environment Facility to support a five-year, USD 7 million (EUR 6.6 million) fisheries sustainability project for the so-called G.O.T. fish project to begin in 2023.

“The project has two key components: strengthening regional transboundary governance and management, with an emphasis on an ecosystem approach to fisheries and development, and alignment of market incentives to support improvements and sustainability,” said SFP Deputy Division Director Dave Martin, who is responsible for overseeing SFP’s work on marine ingredients and engagement in multispecies fisheries. “For me, the most exciting aspect of this project is the focus on multi-species trawl fisheries. These complex fisheries can take hundreds of species of fish in a single net haul. Many of these fisheries are fraught with environmental and social challenges. The FAO is in the final stages of developing a toolkit to assist managers and scientists in managing these multi-species fisheries, which is in and of itself important, as there's really no general agreement on what good looks like in these fisheries.”

Martin said the FAO toolkit and a pilot program being offered by MarinTrust assessing mixed-trawl fisheries will be tested in the region.

“Hopefully we will learn more about how to best manage these fisheries and leverage market incentives to support and reward improvements,” he said. “While the project is focused on a relatively small area geographically, the project could pave the way for effective industry engagement and improvements throughout the region.”

In India, improvements in the sustainability of the country’s reduction fisheries are also taking place partially due to the roundtable’s work, according to MarinTrust Executive Chair Libby Woodhatch. In 2019, an Indian sardine oil FIP located in Goa and Maharashtra became the first Asian FIP to be accepted into the MarinTrust Improver Program, and in June 2022, it was announced the first site from the FIP, operated by Omega Fishmeal and Oil, was accepted into the MarinTrust Improve Program.

“This is great because India is another area where it's very difficult to source fishmeal and fish oil from responsibly sourced fisheries. So we're delighted that the roundtable is also focusing on India. It gives it much more gravitas if we have multiple partners all working to try and achieve the same thing and I think it's a great opportunity for the marine ingredients sector to certainly push change in development in these more difficult fisheries,” Woodhatch said.

Global Seafood Alliance Vice President of Asia Market Development Steve Hart announced at NASF the roundtable will begin a project to develop more FIPs in South and Southeast Asia, with an initial focus on India.

“There's been a lot of [developments] over the last couple of years that really impacted the availability of responsibly produced fishmeal and fish oil within India,” he said. “First of all, there have been tariffs placed on imported product that has made it uneconomical for feed mills in India to source fishmeal and oil from out[side] of [the] country. And then within India, there's just been a lack of general FIP development in the local fisheries. And then you throw in the pandemic and the complications that has added and it's made sourcing in India very challenging at this time. So this roundtable workstream is set up to support improvements within domestic supply chains. And ultimately, the project's focus is to help Indian producers meet the market demands [from companies] committed to responsible ingredients sourcing for aquafeeds. The goal of this workstream is to foster the development of FIPs within India that will lead to more responsible practices supporting domestic fisherpeople in the affiliated industries, especially fishmeal processing plants and aquaculture feed mills, while protecting the long-term sustainability of India's natural fisheries resources.”

Ian Pollard, a sustainable fisheries and aquaculture consultant at independent auditing and consultancy firm Key Traceability, is leading the effort to recruit more Indian companies to participate in the FIP-development project.

“It's critical to get buyer-led industry support for the fit to be a success,” Pollard said. “Already some major retailers committed for their support via the roundtable and now we're reaching out to Indian fishmeal and oil and food producers to be the driving force in moving FIPs forward.”

Across the roundtable, IFFO Technical Director Brett Glencross is leading an effort to establish a robust data trove that will contribute to enable full life-cycle assessments to be performed on the industry as a whole and across segments of it. He said his hope is that his effort will results in a standardization of life-cycle assessment data for fishmeal and fish oil.

“[We hope to provide] a single point-source where anyone can access data that has been collected and standardized to an agreed framework,” he said.

Enabling calculations of life-cycle assessments “will allow for better resource use and also recovery of the biomass … to actually improve food security for the future,” he said.

In his introduction to the presentation, Mathiesen said it is his hope that such data, and the cumulative work being done by the roundtable, contributes to a more-positive view of the fishmeal and fish oil sector’s contribution to global food production.

“When we look to the future of the pelagic fisheries in fish feeds, and if we genuinely believe that blue food has advantages over other types of foods, then we should also not be heavily critical, so long as food and security issues are taken care of. If some of the products go into fish feed where one kilo of marine ingredients plus four kilos of terrestrial ingredients make five kilos of fish, that to me sounds like a good deal,” he said.

IFFO Director-General Petter Johannessen concluded the presentation by encouraging more industry members to get involved with the roundtable.

“We are action-oriented, and we want to be a part of the solution. It takes a collaborative mindset to achieve the goals that we have set. Using the roundtable methodology opens up good discussions and [provides] an open forum,” he said. “It is an industry-led initiative with a global scope, and [the roundtable] shows when we take initiative and when we engage, we also tend to lead the improvement work in our industry and we will continue to do so.”

Photo courtesy of IFFO


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