Fish oil is a natural source of the omega-3 long-chain polyunsaturated fatty acids (EPA and DHA), that are essential nutrients for all vertebrates having important roles in development and in regulating metabolism and physiology. Thus, dietary EPA and DHA have beneficial effects in a range of human pathologies including cardiovascular and inflammatory diseases, and important roles in neural development and function.
As the foundation of aquafeed, fishmeal is perhaps the most established and well-known of the feed ingredients, certainly for aquaculture. It provides essential nutrients to farmed fish which are not available in other ingredients as a single package and is therefore the nutritional benchmark against which other feed ingredients’ performance is measured.
Marine ingredients are nutritious products used mainly for aquafeed, land animal feed as well as for human consumption and are derived from marine organisms such as fish, krill, shellfish and algae. The sources of marine ingredients are often from fish that don’t have a strong food market, and provided the material is responsibly sourced, this valuable resources can be processed in fishmeal and fish oil and further contribute to global protein production, food security and farmed animal and human health.
Fishmeal and fish oil are the foundation of formulated feeds and, because of the superior nutrition that they provide, are regarded as the nutritional benchmark for other ingredients. The production rates for both ingredients has remained steady for over the past 25 years indicating stability in supply (and consequently no additional pressure on fisheries despite continual aquaculture growth). There is growth in the utilisation of by-products as raw material, but the availability is not enough to match the growth of aquaculture. Aquaculture itself will also provide additional byproduct for fishmeal and fish oil production in the future.
Marine ingredients provide essential nutrients for human health, indirectly through the farmed animals that we eat and directly through the consumption of fish oil capsules. Just as fishmeal and fish oil play a vital role in the growth and health of farmed fish, these essential proteins, fats, minerals and vitamins are then passed onto humans. For humans, fish provides energy and is a superior source of protein to other animal source foods in terms of total protein and essential amino acid content and digestibility.
The marine ingredients industry has a complex but well known supply chain with a well-developed series of certification and improvement schemes. With the wealth of data and information extending over many years, the industry can ensure the continued production of high quality feed and nutraceutical ingredients. Starting with the fish, the industry works hard to ensure that the fisheries themselves continue to produce a maximum sustainable yield while protecting the wider marine ecosystem through effective fishery management.
Marine ingredients provide unrivalled and essential nutrients to farmed seafood, most importantly in early stages of growth. In 2018, an estimated 75% of fishmeal and 73% fish oil produced went to aquaculture. When comparing processed products, 3.5 million tonnes of fishmeal and 700,000 tonnes of fish oil, produces more than 44 million tonnes of fed farmed seafood with the benefit of the additional predominantly plant-based ingredient supply. This equates to an incredible multiplier effect of producing more than 10 times their volume in farmed seafood, illustrating the true importance of fishmeal and fish oil to global farmed seafood production
Marine ingredients play a vital role within the global food supply chain, with the majority coming from forage fish, that have a very limited direct food market, and by-products, trimmings from processed fish. Forage fish, such as Peruvian Anchovy, tend to be fragile fish that deteriorate quickly and therefore have limited storage and transport options for the food market. The main source of the by-product is from finfish which would otherwise be unused, incurring both economic and environmental costs for disposal. This material is still underutilised and currently around 33% of global fishmeal production and 26% of global fish oil production comes from by-product.
In feed, fishmeal and fish oil are a balanced, highly digestible and palatable feed ingredient, which are used at strategic stages of the production cycle of animal in support of growth and health. The properties found in fishmeal and fish oil provide key health benefits to the farmed animals, such as optimal immune system function. While fishmeal and fish oil remain the foundation of aquafeed and continue to be an essential ingredient, the finite supply of these ingredients has led to the increasing use of additional raw materials (soya, wheat and land animal proteins).