The oceans are a cradle of life supporting many diverse forms of marine life. Marine ingredients are nutritious products used mainly for human consumption or animal feed and are derived from marine organisms such as fish, krill, shellfish and algae. Sustainability is of key importance in the harvesting of any of the marine life forms to ensure the continued growth and maintenance of the inhabitants of the oceans.
Although fishmeal and fish oil are two of the more commonly known marine ingredients other lesser known marine ingredients are becoming increasingly important. New developments and techniques allow for the utilisation of by-products or waste streams ensuring valuable ingredients are recovered and utilised. Concentrated marine proteins and peptides produced by enzyme hydolysis, chitosan, that is present in the shell of crustaceans, as well as products from various algae are amongst a few of the new products from marine resources. In addition the market for nutraceuticals such as the omega-3 fatty acids EPA and DHA concentrates used in capsules and supplements has grown rapidly with no sign of slowing down. There are also an increasing number of marine derived products being used in licensed pharmaceutical products. Intensively grown algae are increasingly being used for the extraction of the important omega-3 fatty acids and this technology is being constantly investigated and developed.
Fishmeal is a brown powder obtained after cooking, pressing drying and milling fresh raw fish and/or food fish trimmings. Fish oil is normally a clear brown/yellow liquid pressed form the cooked fish (see Production) and normally refined.
Fishmeal and fish oil are produced from short-lived, fast-growing harvesting stocks of fish for which there is little or no demand for human consumption and some is manufactured from by-products of seafood processing companies. The whole fish are mainly small, bony and oily such as anchovy, horse mackerel, menhaden, capelin and sandeel.
Trimmings, which are also used, now constitute around 25% of the raw material for fishmeal production. This is produced from either white-fish which is low in oil (most of the oil is in their livers) or trimmings from oily fish such as herring, mackerel, etc.
Fishmeal contains typically 60% to 72% protein, 10% to 20% ash and 5% to 12% fat, which is high in the health promoting omega-3 very long chain polyunsaturated fatty acids EPA and DHA, often referred to as 'omega-3s' (producers can supply details of the type of raw material used and expected nutrient content).
The high quality and concentration of essential nutrients, especially of well-balanced amino acids, essential fatty acids, and energy content makes fishmeal an indispensable ingredient in diets of most aquaculture species and many land-farm animals. Fish oil is used mainly in feed for farmed fish but is also used to make capsules containing omega-3 fatty acids as human health supplements.
Because of its high omega-3 content fishmeal is a natural 'functional feed' providing health and welfare benefits to livestock. Meat, milk and egg products from farmed animals fed high omega-3 fishmeal are, in turn, functional foods which benefit human health.
The Aquaculture Value Chain is one example of how the fishmeal and oil industry links with other businesses further down the food chain.