IFFO virtual conference trumpets the importance of value-chain collaborations, sustainable solutions

To feed a growing population traceable and nutritious proteins, value-chain collaboration is crucial, according to IFFO, the Marine Ingredients Organization, which recently held its annual conference online.

During the event, IFFO President Anne Mette Baek praised the marine ingredients industry for its ongoing efforts promoting greater sustainability and its engagement with the circular economy – actions she said have helped it maintain resilience.  

“Predictability of both quantity and quality is one of the industry’s key assets,” Baek said.

Speakers confirmed that the annual supply of marine ingredients has been broadly stable for several years, at around six million metric tons (MT), while the volume of finished feed produced has risen.

Lower marine ingredient inclusion levels and use of alternative ingredients have played a role in that success, Baek said. The raw material basket for aquafeed currently has more than 1,000 different ingredients to choose from, including vegetable proteins, single-cell proteins, byproducts, and nutrient dense mesopelagic ingredients such as krill. Mesopelagic ingredients offer exciting potential for the industry, but greater research is needed to understand the impacts of fishing these species sustainably, and to determine how they can be effectively regulated, Baek said.

Byproducts from seafood processing now account for around one-third of the total volume of marine ingredients. MarinTrust Executive Chair Libby Woodhatch told delegates that as a promising area of growth for the industry, byproducts should be recognized as a resource rather than as waste.

“Marine ingredients are still a blind spot in the value chain, because they are not consumer-facing, but consumer preferences have an impact on the industry. It is our job to provide the information about impacts and traceability, and blockchain will play an increasingly important role in this,” Woodhatch said.

IFFO’s trade analysis shows that in 2019, Peru was the main fishmeal and fish oil producer, while China was the biggest importer of fishmeal. China and the rest of Asia consumed almost 70 percent of global fishmeal, and Norway was the biggest importer of fish oil.

In total, aquaculture accounts for 77.19 percent of fishmeal production, followed by the pig industry at 14.2 percent, and poultry at 4.5 percent. There was a small year-on-year rise in the use of fishmeal by the pig sector, the result of dietary changes in reaction to a serious outbreak of African swine fever.

Aquaculture ranked as the largest consumer of fish oil in 2019 at 68 percent, with the salmonid farming industry in Europe and Latin America dominating. Fish oil consumption by the petfood sector continued to rise, the IFFO event found, and direct human consumption rates rose slightly. Fish oil prices are currently at around the five-year average.

By 2030, there will be a requirement for an additional 25 million MT of raw material with suitable nutritional profiles, to meet the growing demand for aquaculture products. This in turn will provide food security for an increasing global population. The challenge, however, is to ensure this is produced sustainability.

According to the University of California, Santa Barbara's Sustainable Fisheries Group Postdoctoral Researcher Christopher Free, studies have shown that the ocean could produce 36 percent more food in 2050 than it does today, through improved governance, and technological innovations that lead to lower costs, increased yields, more raw material for feed, and better feed efficiency. Modelling shows that bivalve production could rise from 5 percent to 11 percent and finfish mariculture from 11 percent to 17 percent, which would reduce the input required from fisheries from 84 percent to 71 percent.

Delegates heard from Woodhatch that future credibility of the industry will be backed up by various certification programs, including MarinTrust. Fifty percent of all marine ingredients are currently certified, and efforts are being made to improve sustainability through improver programs and fishery improvement projects, for example.

Fisheries science is playing an increasingly important role in improving the management of fisheries, but Manuel Barange, the director of fisheries and aquaculture at the Food and Agriculture Organisation, warned that climate change means that fish are adapting more quickly than the management systems in place.

Sustainable Fisheries Partnership Deputy Division Director Dave Martin stressed that fisheries have always fluctuated naturally, and that conclusions about future fish stocks should not be drawn too quickly, nor a switch to non-marine materials be made in haste. He suggested that environmental trade-offs need to be considered carefully.

IFFO CEO Petter Johannessen advised that it was not time for controversies.

“It is time to seek a consensus on where challenges lie, and agree that all sustainable solutions are welcomed,” he said.

Photo courtesy of IFFO


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