IFFO 58th Annual Conference – Day 1 summary

15th October 2018

IFFO’s President Eduardo Goycoolea opened this year’s IFFO Annual Conference in Rome by welcoming the 440 delegates attending from 45 countries. Goycoolea stated that this conference will not shy away from the tough questions aimed at the industry and which are often answered with myths and not facts by those who do not know the industry in detail. These questions included: IFFO’s role as a representative body for the industry; whether growth in marine ingredients is still possible; are both supply and price stable; and is production both sustainable and responsible? Showing the latest market data, Goycoolea then illustrated that while production of marine ingredients from whole fish has remained stable, the production of marine ingredients from by-products has grown substantially and has huge future potential. Price volatility is no more variable than other vegetable proteins and has remained on average stable for the last decade. Finally, the industry is moving towards more responsible and sustainable production, as shown by the rise in IFFO RS complaint production to 51% of global production estimated for 2018. Goycoolea concluded that marine ingredients play a key role in the global food supply chain and the true value to both animal and human health is becoming more and more recognised.

Goycoolea then welcomed to the stage IFFO’s new Director General, Petter M. Johannessen. Johannessen joined IFFO in September, following a long-standing career in the aquafeed industry, and he echoed Goycoolea in welcoming delegates to Rome and to the 58th IFFO Annual Conference. Since joining IFFO, Johannessen has worked hard getting to know the IFFO team and how the organisation operates, as well as meeting members and visiting the IFFO China office. He highlighted IFFO’s achievements so far this year, including 58 market reports and 32 press releases, editorials and interviews published. Johannessen highlighted his key targets going forward, most notably adopting a broad perspective across the feed and aquaculture value chains to ensure IFFO engages key stakeholders. He added that IFFO’s evidence based approach remains essential in supporting the development of a global responsible industry and  effectively communicating the vital importance of marine ingredients.

Goycoolea then opened the panel on how the marine ingredients industry is perceived and what it needs to do to secure its future. Featuring high level representatives from key areas of the industry, the format for the session was short presentations by each panellist, followed by a panel discussion led by Goycoolea. Commencing with an international perspective, Árni M. Mathiesen (Assistant Director-General, FAO Fisheries and Aquaculture Department) focused on global food security, highlighting that the number of undernourished people rose to 821 million in 2017, with an insufficient intake of calories, protein, vitamins and minerals. Mathiesen called for the industry to help with this challenge by being innovative and increasing sustainable and responsible practices. He noted the industry is facing a combination of less resources, preferred use of those resources away from feeds; and increasing demand for more aquafeed. He concluded that new alternative sources of proteins did offer some relief to these pressures.

Marine Harvest’s Chairman of the Board, Ole Eirik Lerøy, also noted the challenges facing the industry including, population growth, obesity, fisheries at or close to maximum exploitation, growing middleclass, aging population and climate change. He noted that the demand for healthy, tasty and convenient remain the corner stones of salmon demand. Lerøy also presented Marine Harvests target of removing Ethoxyquin from their supply chain and called for the industry to phase it out to further improve trust and value in fishmeal as a premium feed ingredient. Continuing with the focus on aquaculture, Dr George Chamberlain (President, Global Aquaculture Alliance) opened by focusing on negative misconceptions of the industry, including depriving local communities of fish and other marine species, contributing to the collapse of world fisheries; and unethical practices on fishing vessels. The reality he noted is that these fish are often unpopular for direct human consumption, there is far greater feed fish efficiency of aquaculture; and social issues are improving generally even if they are sometimes raised as a concern. To secure the marine ingredients industry’s future, Chamberlain noted that IFFO RS and its Improvers Programme, and FIPs in general, need to continue to be positioned as an integral element of the responsible seafood production chain and that auditable standards for social compliance should be considered. Regarding food safety, standard and residue testing programs need to be further developed. Chamberlain also noted that there needs to be more funds invested in research to develop specialty products to balance and supplement the growing list of substitutes as well as other renewable marine ingredient sources. He concluded by asking the industry to tell our story, highlighting how it is sustainable, nutritious and essential for health.

Continuing the focus on sustainability, Jim Cannon (CEO, Sustainable Fisheries Partnership) opened with a description of the common perceptions of overfishing, poor management, ecosystem collapse and bad labour practices. The reality in Latin America and the Atlantic is that 90% of stocks are reasonably managed with 20% MSC certified and 60% improving (IFFO RS, FIP, MSC FA). For Asia, the reality is far more complicated with perceptions of overfishing and other critical environmental and social issues much closer to reality. There is a maximum of 10% of production currently developing improvement efforts. Cannon recommended that Latin America and the Atlantic continue existing improvement efforts and ensure supply meets rising market expectations in Europe. For Asia, Cannon noted that urgent action is needed to assure supply and reduce impacts, there needs to be more help maintaining access to EU and US markets, more work on existing FIPs, further growth of the Asian Reduction Fisheries Supply Chain Roundtable; and more support for the IFFO RS multispecies standard.

Michiel Fransen (Head of the Standards and Science Team, Aquaculture Stewardship Council) presented in the place of Chris Ninnes who sadly couldn’t attend the panel. Fransen opened with the view that ‘the customer is always right’. He then divided up perceptions in the value chain, direct users of marine ingredients (feed companies etc) are focused on price, quality and availability. The end consumers (of salmon etc) are focused on sustainability and the price of the end product. He closed by analysing how fishmeal and fish oil could be positioned compared with new alternative ingredients.

Intrafish Media’s Pål Korneliussen was the last to present and opened by looking at the increasing pace of disruption, due to the expansion of internet access and social media. He analysed the megatrends, including climate change, resource decrease and cost increase, urbanisation and the shift in economic power. From a media perspective, Korneliussen noted that this industry is understood by only a few and appears to give little access and information and he noted that no food business is immune from risk. He warned that unless the industry changes the way that it communicates and be better prepared a crisis will hit. To reduce this risk he recommended understanding your supply chain, increasing focus on transparency and traceability, audit your suppliers, revisit specifications; and clarify test methods/reporting obligations. He concluded by recommending that the industry listens in and get the message out.


The following panel discussion focused on some key areas mentioned in the presentations. Communications across the supply chain was identified as the main challenge for the industry. Lerøy noted that the consumer is becoming more aware and engaged and that the decision to remove Ethoxyquin and find a natural replacement has been driven by the European consumer. Chamberlain echoed this by noting that consumers were starting to ask for traceability back to the origin in the supply chain and their Global Seafood Assurance (GSA) scheme has been created to identify the gaps in aquaculture and fisheries certification. He noted that fishmeal and fish oil are currently lost and unrecognised by the consumer and it is essential to communicate the role and contribution. Korneliussen noted that from a press point of view the industry needs to greatly improve its communication and engagement, he suggested to be proactive and communicate in the quiet time and try as an industry to speak as one voice. Mathiesen added that the industry as a whole must justify its existence by communicating the crucial role that it plays in securing food security, merging the positive contributions into one clear message.

Other points that came across in the panel were the potential of new marine ingredients, Mathiesen called for the industry to utilise our oceans further, capture sunlight for primary production to produce both protein and oils. The social and sustainability challenges in Asia also featured in discussions, with recommendations of a combined approach with governments and the industry, with the first step being a risk assessment tool to monitor vessel activity. The final point that Chamberlain highlighted in Asia and other developing regions was the gap between being uncertified and certified and that the industry needs to further encourages and help companies make that transition.

Closing the session was a presentation by Paolo Caricato, the Deputy Head of Unit, Health & Food Safety Directorate General for the European Commission. Caricato’s presentation gave clarification on the requirements under EU regulations for the importation of fish oil for human consumption into the EU, a topic which has featured heavily in the press and created some confusion. In summary, Caricato confirmed that when a plant is approved for the production of fish oil for human consumption, it is compulsory to use raw material fit for human consumption (in accordance with the EU regulations), and which has been produced in processes that meet food hygiene standards.  That product may go into either food or feed.  Fish oil that is destined for feed should be produced in an establishment which is ABP (Animal Byproduct) approved.  Under the regulations, it is not permissible for a producer to produce and store both food and feed grade oil (and fishmeal) where the production has differing raw material standards and processes.

The day finished with a Welcome Reception, kindly sponsored by Intertek and held at the spectacular Palazzo Brancaccio.