Aker BioMarine questions calls for replacing krill in aquafeed

Aker Vice President of Policy and Impact Pål Skogrand.

Norwegian krill processor Aker BioMarine has described the effort to replace krill as an ingredient in aquafeed as “ill-advised.”

This critique comes after the Future of Fish Feed (F3) – a collaborative effort between NGOs, researchers, and private partnerships that supports innovative efforts to scale up sustainable fish feed production – recently announced a shortlist of 10 companies that have been named finalists in its F3 krill replacement challenge to manufacture products using various alternative farmed salmon feeds.

F3 said the competition was “motivated by scientific research that has shown sharp declines in krill populations by as much as 80 percent.” The declines, according to F3, “are the result of climate-induced changes in ocean temperature, currents, acidification, and regional overfishing.”

Nicole Bransome, the senior officer for Pew Charitable Trusts’ Bertarelli Ocean Legacy project, echoed this sentiment, saying that the negative impacts of krill fishing are clear.

“While the krill fishery currently takes only a small portion of the overall Antarctic krill population, localized overfishing happens in coastal predator foraging areas, competing directly with predators for krill,” Bransome said. “Current fishing regulations overestimate the percentage of the krill population actually available to both the fishery and predators in the small coastal areas where the fishery concentrates. Research shows that krill predators, particularly penguins, have been impacted by the combined impacts of localized fishing and climate change in those areas.” 

In response, Aker questioned F3’s claims, stating that “krill science is in constant development, and using references that are almost 20 years old will always run the risk of being outdated and should be used with caution, especially by a credible science institution.”

Aker Vice President of Policy and Impact Pål Skogrand said the last 15 years “have been marked by more regular, large-scale krill surveys in Antarctica, which have not detected any systematic change in the krill population.”

“[F3 has] failed to grasp the strong sustainability credentials of krill and have only backed up their claims with a very rudimentary display of knowledge of krill,” Skogrand told SeafoodSource.

As for the challenge in particular, Skogrand claimed it’s “perhaps better described as a krill complementation challenge, which we welcome very much.”

“With krill as a feed ingredient, the bar is set high in terms of sustainability, functionality, and promotion of fish health,” he said. “We understand why producers of other feed ingredients would want to reach for this level.”

Skogrand said the aquaculture sector continues to grow globally, and because of that, “there will be a high demand for novel ingredients … and the current supply of sustainable ingredients will not cover this demand,” Skogrand said.

“We, therefore, need innovation and development within novel ingredients that can support a growing industry in a sustainable way, and we still need krill,” he said.

Kevin Fitzimmons, the chair and judge of the F3 Challenge, as well as a research specialist and professor within the University of Arizona’s Department of Environmental Science specializing in aquaculture and related subjects, said that Aker’s criticism was misguided.

“The debate of how many krill are in the Southern Ocean continues, but so does

Photo courtesy of Aker BioMarine

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