Petter Johannessen Q&A: IFFO’s director general on developing the feed ingredients landscape

Petter Martin Johannessen, IFFO's director general.

The aquaculture feed sector is seeing the development of new inputs with the potential to improve the sustainability and availability of its product. While these new innovations can contribute to meeting the needs of a growing population, the buzz around such opportunities overshadows the importance of – and innovation in – traditional inputs like fishmeal, which still holds the greatest potential to efficiently deliver a nutrient-rich, sustainable feed to the aquaculture marketplace.

Petter Martin Johannessen joined IFFO, the international trade body that represents the marine ingredients industry, in 2018 as director general. He will be a featured speaker for the Seafood Expo Global conference session “Beyond the buzz: Developing a healthy, sustainable feed,” taking place on 28 April from 10:30 - 11:30. Here, Johannessen shares his thoughts on what the future holds for marine ingredients.

SeafoodSource: What role do marine ingredients play in the market now, and what role do you see the industry playing in the future?

Johannessen: The role of marine ingredients in supporting the growth of aquaculture is well known for being the foundational ingredients that underpinned the development of the sector worldwide. Still today, more than 70 percent of fishmeal and fish oil production are used by aquaculture because of an unmatched combination of properties: nutritional profile (long chain omega-3s, protein, vitamins and minerals), palatability, digestibility, volumes (approximately 5 million metric tons [MT] of fishmeal and 1 million MT of fish oil are produced each year), and prices.

Based on the United Nations’ FAO estimates, aquaculture production could more than double and reach 140 million MT by 2050. With more and more feed ingredients required to support this growth, marine ingredients are increasingly used at strategic stages of the production cycle, where critical nutrients are indispensable. Increasing marine ingredient production into the future is expected through the better use of fishery and aquaculture by-products, which already make up one third of marine raw materials used to produce fishmeal and fish oil.

SeafoodSource: Where do new ingredients being developed for feed fit in, and what will their relationship be to marine ingredients?

Johannessen: We welcome new ingredients: an additional 42 million MT of ingredients are needed to support the growth of aquaculture. Marine ingredients can be complemented by less nutrient-dense ingredients like soybean meals and rapeseed oils. However, recent studies have shown that this use of plant resources worsens the environmental footprint of aquaculture more than if we had stayed with the use of marine ingredients. If we focus on anchovy, its carbon footprint is less than 8 percent of the CO2 emissions related to feed ingredients compared to land-based ingredients such as soybean (over 90 percent), according to data from Dr. Richard Newton of Stirling University in the U.K. Furthermore, the sustainability of feeding animals on food-grade plant resources like soybean protein and rapeseed oil has also been questioned. What we advocate is for a life cycle assessment of all ingredients, in order to allow for comparison and for strategic decisions to be made regarding their combination.

SeafoodSource: You mentioned some of the innovation going on in marine ingredients. Can you tell us what is happening in the sector to make marine ingredients more sustainable?

Johannessen: More than 50 percent of global marine ingredient production comes from third-party certification scheme approved producers, according to MarinTrust. We encourage producers of marine ingredients to engage with certification programs and consider life cycle analyses, which are now the metrics to enable both assessments of environmental impacts and product footprint and action plans towards improvement. Moreover, we are confident that the availability of responsibly sourced and produced marine ingredients can be increased in the coming years. This is what fishery improvement projects (FIPs) aim for, by putting all stakeholders around the table and agreeing on a plan to improve fisheries management practices. Promising initiatives are underway as part of MarinTrust’s Improver Program and have already proven their positive impacts: the Panama small pelagics fishery made history as the first accepted applicant for the MarinTrust Improver Program in 2015. A new management plan was put in place, with secondary measures, including the setting of total allowable catches, further limiting fishing effort. FIPs are underway in the Gulf of Thailand and in Vietnam as well as in Mauritania, as part of MarinTrust’s Improver Program. Such multistakeholder initiatives are key to making the marine ingredients industry more sustainable.

SeafoodSource: What is the relationship between the marine ingredients sector and the rest of the seafood industry?

Johannessen: Although we may have the feeling sometimes that the marine ingredients sector is a blind spot, we are convinced that it is a key pillar of the food production system. Within it, blue foods bear a huge responsibility, as the Blue Food Assessment papers have shown. Oceans make up 70 percent of the planet, but fish accounts for 17 percent of total animal protein and 7 percent of all proteins. Fisheries and aquaculture can play a greater role in delivering nutrition. One kilogram of marine raw material gives 5 kilograms of farmed fish across global production systems. Thus, fish which do not have a strong food market are converted into five-times the volume of fish that people do want to eat. There is definitely a lasting and promising relationship between the marine ingredients industry and the seafood sector as a whole. We also hope to make the most of fishmeal and oil from trimmings and by-products. While the use of trimmings and by-products is not a new initiative in the marine ingredients sector, the momentum is clearly growing. IFFO’s data show aquaculture is now a major player in the provision of fish oils, with both salmon and pangasius sectors being significant contributors. On the fishmeal front, while aquaculture is a comparative minor contributor, we note that by-products from human food fisheries contribute 20 percent of all production.

Photo courtesy of Petter Johannessen


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