The fishmeal and fish oil industry: IFFO's History

IFFO was formed in 2001, but has a collective history of nearly 60 years, encompassing the activities of its predecessors, namely the Fishmeal Exporters’ Organisation (FEO), International Association of Fish Meal Manufacturers (IAFMM) and International Fishmeal and Oil Manufacturers’ Association (IFOMA).  In 2012, IFFO changed its name from IFFO The Fishmeal and Fish Oil Organisation to IFFO The Marine Ingredients Organisation.

The movement towards a trade organisation was initiated by Louis Abel of France when an informal meeting of European fishmeal producers and scientists was held in Paris early in the 1950s, followed by another meeting in London. In 1956 and 1957 two larger meetings were held in London. In 1958 the South African Fish Meal Producers Organisation offered hospitality in Cape Town and longer and more detailed Producers and Scientific meetings were held. Jim Gardiner, President of the UK Association, and Abe Shapiro, Chairman of Oceana Group, acted as joint Chairmen of the meeting. More countries were represented, including USA, Denmark, Norway, Spain, Angola, Iceland and Portugal. At a follow-up meeting in Madrid in 1959 it was decided that the International Association of Fish Meal Manufacturers (IAFMM) should be established by producers from Angola, France, Germany, South Africa, Spain and UK. These meetings were essentially in the format subsequently adopted for the Annual Conferences.

In 1960, when the apparent imbalance between supply and demand was seriously affecting world markets, some major exporters of fishmeal realised the need for more detailed study of the main consuming markets and founded the Fishmeal Exporters’ Organisation (FEO), with producers and exporters from Angola, Norway, South Africa and Peru, and subsequently Chile, Denmark and Iceland. Those who participated on behalf of Peru included Luis Banchero Rossi, who later became the largest producer of fishmeal in the world and Carlos Sotomayor. Jacques Schwarz, a major trader based in Paris, was appointed as the first Secretary General in 1960 when the “Convenio de Paris” was signed by the largest exporters of fishmeal forming the Fishmeal Exporters’ Organisation (FEO). In 1970 CORPESCA, then and now, the largest producer in Chile, joined FEO and played a major role in organising the data used for the analysis of the markets.

In 1964 IAFMM, under its second president Alex Olney (UK), decided to invite agents, importers and brokers to attend its Annual Meetings. During that year producers in Denmark and Morocco joined IAFMM.

26 years later in 1990, following years of growing and productive co-operation between producers and traders, end-users and related service industries, the then IAFMM President, Felipe Zaldivar Larraine, Chairman of CORPESCA in Chile, together with the second Director General, Stuart Barlow, invited IAFMM to consider formalising the relationship by instituting Associate Membership of IAFMM. This offered membership to companies in the industry which were not producers of fishmeal and fish oil. This offer was readily taken up and 45 new Associate Members joined in the first year. In 1992 the then President of IAFFM, Vivian Epstein, MD of Suiderland Development Corp., South Africa, realised that, because IAFMM had developed over the years into an essentially scientific research-based organisation, there were grants and UK tax advantages in reconstituting IAFMM as an English company limited by guarantee. This was achieved with advice from the UK Government's Department of Trade and Industry and a new body was formed in 1993 called the International Fishmeal and Oil Manufacturers’ Association (IFOMA). Under this new structure IFOMA was able to purchase new offices in St Albans, north of London - a much better facility than the original cramped rented offices of IAFMM on the 3rd and 4th floors of an old building in the centre of London. IFOMA also had a branch office in Lima.

In 1999, the main financiers of IFOMA (formerly IAFMM) and FEO questioned the costs and efficiencies of running two international organisations and proposed that the work and administration of both organisations should be merged into one organisation. The Presidents of both organisations, namely Helge Korsager (UK) of IFOMA and Eduardo Goycoolea (Chile) of FEO were invited to consider the feasibility of such a merger, together with the two managers, Stuart Barlow, Director General of IFOMA and Joe Bololanik, the Secretary General of FEO. The result was the formation of the International Fishmeal and Fish Oil Organisation (IFFO) in 2001 with headquarters at St Albans, under the joint care-taker Presidency of Messrs Korsager and Goycoolea and with Stuart Barlow being appointed as Director General and Joe Bololanik as Executive Adviser. The Paris office was subsequently closed.

During this time of transition, concern was felt that the many producer companies in Peru might choose not to join the new organisation, mainly because some did not have a history of participating in the activities of the earlier organisations. The first elected President of IFFO, Ivan Orlic of Peru, who had played a significant part in bringing the two organisations together, worked tirelessly persuading producers in Peru to join IFFO during his two years in office. As a result of his efforts, IFFO flourished with considerable support from Producer Members and Associate Members in Peru, as well as continued support from other member countries which had formed the backbone of both organisations.

In 2004, Jonathan Shepherd was appointed to succeed Stuart Barlow as Director General on his retirement, which happened during the tenure of IFFO's first Lady President, Solveig Samuelsdottir from Iceland. With this new transition, greater focus was given on the whole value chain, bringing traders and buyers of fishmeal and fish oil - and even food processors and retailers - into regular close dialogue with producers under the IFFO umbrella to mutual advantage. In addition to the UK head office and the Peruvian sub-office in Lima, IFFO also established a presence in Beijing, China, thus covering the largest producer and largest consumer countries of the industry. In 2007, the IFFO Board decided to address the value chain’s need for reassurance on the origin and purity of the raw materials going into marine ingredients; and in order to better demonstrate to all stakeholders the commitment of IFFO’s members to responsible practices in the areas of raw material procurement, feed/food safety and traceability, a multi-stakeholder Technical Advisory Committee was convened to develop a Global Standard for the Responsible Supply (IFFO RS) of fishmeal and fish oil.  The standard was finalised in September 2009, the programme opened for applications in October 2009 and the first factory was certified in February 2010. 

In 2011, Jonathan Shepherd retired as Director General.  He was succeeded by Andrew Mallison, a previous Director at the Marine Stewardship Council (MSC), who also managed global seafood sourcing for British retailer Marks and Spencer and was an advisor to government ministers.  Working with the Board and President Nils Christian Jensen, the management team shifted focus to increasing IFFO’s presence in Asia, resulting in new members from China, Vietnam and Thailand.  

In 2013, the UK office moved from St Albans to Central London to improve access for members.

In 2018, Petter Martin Johannessen was appointed to succeed Andrew Mallison as Director General.