Click on the infographics below to find out the key facts about the marine ingredients industry and the vital role that it plays in farmed animal and human health.

In brief

  • Derived from forage fish*, marine organisms such as fish, krill, shellfish and algae
  • A growing amount comes from by products: currently one third of the world’s fishmeal production
  • Three quarters of fishmeal and fish oil are used in aquaculture as aquafeed
  • Fish oil supplements are widely consumed with around 20% of the total fish oil going to this growing industry

Most common sources of marine ingredients

Small pelagic species

The small pelagic species that occupy the majority of the whole fish proportion are dominated by the Peruvian anchovy, Engraulis ringens. Peruvian anchovy provides enough raw material to account for 15-20% of the global annual production on any given year. Other important species are the Atlantic and Gulf menhaden in the US, and various sardine, sprat, mackerel, krill, and sandeel stocks around the world. 

By products

The growth in the utilisation of by products allows to use what was previous waste and develop it instead as another valuable raw material from which fishmeal and fish oil may be produced. There is scope for increased fishmeal and fish oil production from seafood by product.

Naturally high protein ingredients

Fishmeal and fish oil are obtained through cooking, pressing drying and milling fresh raw fish and/or food fish trimmings.

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'.

Fish oil supplements: EPA and DHA have significant health benefits especially for heart conditions, arthritis and diabetes. It is also an essential supplement for pregnant women as these fatty acids are key to foetal brain development.

* Forage fish are also known as Small Pelagic fish species. They come from low trophic level fisheries and refer to fast-growing, early-maturing and highly productive species.


Foundation of formulated feed

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.  Additional ingredients are being developed alongside fishmeal and fish oil to provide optimal fish nutrition and ensure the continued growth of the aquaculture industry.

Essential for fish nutrition

Fishmeal is a balanced, highly digestible and palatable feed ingredient which is used at strategic stages of the production cycle of fish in support of growth and health.  It offers a range of important nutrients for farmed fish, including:

  • Protein for growth – fishmeal is among the best available ingredients for protein, with an abundance of amino acids that fit precisely the requirements for all fish species
  • Long chain omega-3’s (EPA & DHA) - Richer source than any other feed ingredient, barring fish oil itself (fishmeal usually contains 8-12% of fish oil), which is essential for overall good health and optimal growth
  • Minerals - An excellent source of a number of nutritionally important minerals, including calcium and phosphorus (aids bone formation), magnesium, potassium, and selenium
  • Vitamins – rich in vitamins, such as vitamin C and A (immune system), vitamin D (aids mineral absorption and bone health), vitamin E (nerve function), vitamin K (blood clotting), as well as vitamins such as B1, B2, B6 and B12
  • Additional unique compounds which have been linked to superior performance, and palatability, include taurine, trimethylamine oxide, nucleotides and glycosaminoglycans

Fish oil is an essential component of a healthy and balanced diet for farmed fish.  Just as they provide health benefits to humans, so do they provide health advantages for farmed fish. The benefits of using fish oil include:

  • Dietary source of energy and essential for overall good health and optimal growth
  • Long chain omega-3 fatty acids such as EPA and DHA support physiological processes including cellular signalling, membrane function and hormone precursors
  • Greatly enhances palatability of the feed – which is vital at the early stages of growth

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. Among other nutrients, farmed fish are a rich source of vitamin D and calcium (bone and muscle health), vitamin B12 (aids metabolism), Zinc and Selium (aids immune system).

The other key nutrient for human health in marine ingredients are the long chain omega-3s (EPA and DHA), which are crucial for the health and growth of the farmed animals and in turn pass on the significant health benefits to us. Fish oil supplements are widely consumed with around 20% of the total fish oil produced in 2018 going to this growing industry. It is recommended that healthy adults consume a minimum of 250–500 mg combined EPA and DHA each day as part of a healthy diet. The benefits of consuming EPA and DHA are well known and include:

  • Heart health – Omega-3s have been shown to help maintain healthy blood pressure and healthy triglyceride levels and may reduce Coronary Heart Disease (CHD).
  • Neurological Health - DHA is the most abundant omega-3 fatty acid in the brain and needs to replenish the supply to function optimally.
  • Eye health - DHA is found in large amounts in the retina of the eye, the part of the eye responsible for seeing under different lighting conditions.
  • Prenatal health - Omega-3s play an important role in brain and eye development for a growing baby, both during pregnancy and in the first months of life.


Source: Omega-3 health benefits -

The infographic displayed above is the first of a series that was developed with On-idle.