IFFO’s Brett Glencross: Maximum sustainable yield strategy best management solution

Published on
December 2, 2021
Fisheries management using maximum sustainable yields (MSY) is key to maintaining healthy stocks, according to Brett Glencross, the technical director of IFFO, The Marine Ingredients Organization.

Fisheries management using maximum sustainable yields (MSY) is key to maintaining healthy stocks, according to Brett Glencross, the technical director of IFFO, The Marine Ingredients Organization.

The global fishmeal and fish oil industry has become increasingly sustainable as many of the world’s developed nations have put MSY limits in place, and as an increasing number of seafood companies make the use of sustainably certified ingredients a non-negotiable precondition of their sourcing policies, said Glencross, who was appointed to his position in May 2021.

“Our sector has taken considerable efforts to make fishmeal and fish oil fisheries sustainable. Many of the fisheries are single species, which makes them easier to manage, and many are better regulated and better managed than the larger mixed fisheries,” he told SeafoodSource.

Because of that high level of sustainability, marine products can be an ideal protein choice to feed an expanding global population. Currently, fish account for just 17 percent of animal protein in global diets and 7 percent of all protein, but the industry has the capacity to grow its share of inclusion in global diets, Glencross said.

“There is considerable room for fisheries and aquaculture to play a much greater role in food security and delivering our nutritional needs through more strategic use,” Glencross said. “For example, for every one kilogram of raw material, including whole fish and byproducts, turned into fishmeal and fish oil, five kilograms of farmed fish can be produced for human consumption. Around 30 percent of fishmeal and nearly half of all fish oil now come from byproducts, and the circular economy operates in this sector on a scale that consumers are not generally aware of.”

In the wake of the generally disappointing outcome of COP26 – the 2021 United Nations Climate Change Conference held in Glasgow, Scotland in November – combating and mitigating the effects of climate change on global food security has become a hot topic of discussion, Glencross said. The global target of limiting temperature rise by 1.5 degrees Celsius is now unlikely, meaning facing some degree of climate change is certain. Glencross said adapting to that change depends on getting effective fisheries and aquaculture policy and management strategies in place across the globe, aided by modeling from experts such as Manual Barange, the director of FAO’s Fisheries and Aquaculture Division.

Glencross said the oceans are the largest absorber of incoming solar radiation, accounting for around 93 percent, with ice absorbing 4 percent, land 2 percent, and the atmosphere 1 percent. As a result, the oceans absorb more carbon dioxide and are more significantly impacted by climate change.

“Our members are acutely aware that the consequences of climate change are complex and far-reaching, and mitigating for and adapting to its impacts on the marine ingredients industry is essential if we are to continue to provide feed ingredients to produce seafood for a growing population,” Glencross said. “The five main ocean-related drivers impacting the marine ingredients industry are a rise in global sea level, an increase in the number and severity of storms, a rise in the temperature of the ocean, which means that fisheries become displaced, a change of pH in seawater which can affect bivalves, and a change in the balance of El Niño and La Niña events, which can have far-reaching effects across the world.”

The seafood industry is actively seeking ways to reduce its carbon footprint through natural resources management practices, better maintenance of equipment, and improved use and repurposing of fisheries products, Glencross said. But fishmeal and fish oil already have superior carbon credentials, with numerous studies showing when compared to other main feed ingredients such as soybean, wheat gluten, and pea protein, fishmeal and fish oil have a lower carbon footprint, he said.

“It is wrong to talk about reducing the carbon footprint of feeds by replacing marine ingredients because we already have a low-carbon value chain,” he said. “For example, the small pelagic species such as anchoveta that make up one-third of our raw materials are caught with purse-seiners, and life-cycle analysis shows that they use just 280 kilograms of fuel per metric ton of fish caught, compared with larger trawlers, which use an average of 1,400 kilograms per MT,” he said.

More than half of marine ingredients used globally are now certified as sustainable through third-party schemes, and IFFO and MarinTrust are encouraging the adoption of fisheries improvement programs (FIPs) to help more fisheries achieve certification. MarinTrust is the global marine ingredient standard for responsible supply, which was founded by IFFO but which is now independently run. China, Vietnam, Japan, and Thailand have the greatest potential to join the certification process, Glencross said.

Global aquaculture feed production is now stable at around 55 million MT, of which fishmeal and fish oil makes up five million MT, with a further one million MT used for animal feed and human consumption,” Glencross said.

“Aquaculture has overtaken fisheries to become the major supplier of seafood products around the world and this has been helped by smarter, more-strategic use of fishmeal and fish oil. We started looking at fishmeal and fish oil replacement programs back in the 1990s, but through more strategic use, we have enabled a small resource to create a large resource, in a classic loaves and fishes story,” he said.

Photo courtesy of IFFO

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