Seafood Summit: All eyes on salmon

By

James Wright, Senior Editor

Published on
January 31, 2010

Editor’s note: SeaFood Business Associate Editor James Wright and SeafoodSource Contributing Editor Lindsey Partos are in Paris this week covering the Seafood Choices Alliance Seafood Summit.

A great deal of attention was placed on salmon — especially the sustainability of the farmed variety — on Sunday, Day 1 of the Seafood Choices Alliance Seafood Summit in Paris.

Usage of fishmeal in carnivorous fish feeds was the chief focus of the session, “Will salmon feeds become independent from fishmeal?” The answer to that question, according to Dr. Alejandro Obach Medrano, managing director of Skretting’s aquaculture research center, is a guardedly optimistic “yes.”

Obach said that reducing fishmeal content from fish feeds has been a focus of the Norwegian company — and for fish feed manufacturers as a whole — for the past 15 to 20 years. And impressive gains have been measured in that time, he said, as the percentage of fishmeal has dropped from roughly two-thirds of the blend to about one-quarter.

However, Skretting recently conducted feed trials with four different groups of salmon — diets consisting of 30 percent fishmeal, as well as 25, 20 and 15 percent, respectively — that showed that fish-consuming feed blends with less than 25 percent fishmeal demonstrated a significant shortfall in performance.

But with a new focus on utilization of vegetable proteins and other key micronutrients, Obach said it is possible for future feed blends to be reduced to 15 percent fishmeal, without the use of other animal proteins. Skretting has tested about 500 different raw materials, he added.

The aquaculture industry’s dependence on fishmeal was a point of contention for several members of the audience, including representatives of the Pure Salmon Campaign, which coincidentally will debut a 23-minute film on Monday titled “Farmed Salmon Exposed: The Global Reach of the Norwegian Salmon Farming Industry.” That film will be screened at the Marriott Rive Gauche Hotel & Conference Center’s Saint Michelle Conference room at 10:30 a.m. The group opposes salmon farming for its environmental impacts, including fishmeal dependence.

Data provided by Dr. Andrew Jackson of the International Fishmeal and Fish Organization (IFFO) showed that as the aquaculture industry has grown, so has its dependence on fishmeal. In 1980, fish farms accounted for 10 percent of global fishmeal consumption; in 2008 that figure had grown to 58.8 percent (pigs accounted for about 31 percent in 2008, down from 50 percent in 1960, he said.)

Within seafood production, salmon and crustacean production account for more than half of all fishmeal consumption, at 29 and 28 percent of the global tally, respectively. Jackson also added that species largely considered herbivorous — catfish and tilapia, for example — also use fishmeal during their juvenile stages when those fish are carnivorous. But catfish and tilapia account for only 6 and 5 percent of all fishmeal consumption, said Jackson.

Earlier in the day, Peter Tyedmers of Dalhousie University in Nova Scotia, Canada, and Astrid Scholz of Ecotrust shared the results of their life-cycle assessment (LCA) studies of salmon-production systems during the session, “Building Better Salmon: Improving the life cycle of seafood supply chains from fish to fork;” an LCA is essentially a way of measuring the carbon footprint or greenhouse-gas emissions from a particular production system.

The process, they explained, looks at the entire production cycle from farm, or boat, to fork: extraction of raw materials, processing, transportation, packaging, storage, usage and waste management. Tyedmers and Scholz evaluated several wild-capture and aquaculture operations and determined that frozen-at-sea (FAS) wild salmon from Alaska was the gold standard.

“You cannot outperform, from a climate and environmental standpoint, Alaska salmon,” said Scholz.

Regarding fresh salmon distributed to the United States, British Columbia salmon is the best choice from an LCA standpoint; in Europe, it is Norwegian salmon. Scholz and Tyedmers concluded that salmon from Chile and Scotland salmon “are just not efficient.”

Why? “It’s all about the feed,” said Tyedmers. He concluded that, among the world’s three major salmon feed providers, “there are only about 12 people in the world who decide what goes into salmon feed, and they could be responsible for substantial changes.”

“I wish it were that simple,” replied Petter Arneson, VP-feed and environment for Norway-based Marine Harvest. “There are legal requirements, serious customer requirements and requirements for the fish itself, which to us is No. 1.

“There is no doubt we are moving in the right direction,” added Arneson. “Percentages of fishmeal and fish oil are going down, even as production is rising. We are using less. It is not fair to say that our industry has contributed to a growth in fishmeal production; it is not the case.”

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