F3 (Fish Free Feed) Challenge

The fishmeal and fish oil industry have embraced responsible production and provided a vital channel to utilise by-products from seafood processing. Over 40% of the global fishmeal and fish oil production is now from factories certified under an independent third party scheme assessing the source of the raw material, traceability and processing standards, a higher figure than any other animal feed ingredient can claim. 35% of the global raw material comes from recycling trimmings and offcuts from seafood processing, a figure that continues to grow over time.

Fishmeal and fish oil production has been static for several years and the industry accepts other raw materials are needed to allow the continued growth of aquaculture. However, it is surprising that a campaign to encourage the necessary development of additional feed ingredients has been launched under such a negative banner. Removing certified fishmeal from feed formulations not only dis-incentivises fishmeal producers to make further improvements but potentially removes a market for by-products that would otherwise be dumped.

The challenge campaign website states that “If fish meal and oil is limiting the future, how can aquaculture continue to grow?” In a poll at the 2015 Global Aquaculture Alliance conference, only 5% of respondents thought that feed was a limiting factor to the growth of aquaculture.

Marine ingredients are now used selectively to the extent that, in all fed aquaculture, 0.3kg of fish (before conversion to fishmeal) creates 1.0kg of farmed fish. Marine proteins are highly digestible, form the essential basis of all juvenile farmed fish diets, and marine oils are still the best source of long chain Omega 3 fats.

Fish-free diets already exist for many farmed fish e.g. Tilapia and have also been developed for the higher value carnivorous farmed fish e.g. Salmon. However, the high vegetable content of these feeds when used in carnivorous species causes gut inflammation and incurs a growth penalty. There seems little to be achieved by offering a prize for a feed formulation that already exists or causes animal welfare and farming penalties. Vegetable alternatives have far lower levels of independent certification of their environmental impact and their use of freshwater, fertilisers and the creation of monocultures devoid of biodiversity are a concern.

The fishmeal and fish oil industry welcomes any initiative that supports the continued growth of aquaculture and acknowledges it must compete with other raw materials for its share of feed formulations. However, calling for fish based ingredients to be removed on the basis of their limiting aquaculture growth or their sustainability is unjustified and neither the impact on fish health nor the sustainability of the other alternative ingredients seem to be criteria being considered for this prize.

Last updated: 27th October 2015