Marine ingredients: key players in the circular economy - International Aquafeed – July 2019


This article has been published in the International Aquafeed Magazine - July 2019

Having been involved in several meetings in Europe this year relating to the notions of the circular and blue bioeconomies, it has been surprising to listen to discussions about the need to “valorise” so-called waste streams from fish processing. This was again reinforced at a meeting in Brussels earlier this week, but that is not an isolated occurrence for this kind of discussion. Present at that meeting were a range of attendees, many from academia, with some also from blue start-ups, but also, interestingly, European Commission officials in support of the objectives of this initiative.

So, it’s a mystery then (according to some): What are we going to do with the waste streams from fish processing?  Well, at those meetings IFFO made the point forcibly that there is an industry that for several decades already has been working to the objectives of the blue bioeconomy, and the circular economy, by utilising the trimmings, offcuts and byproduct from fish processed for food in order to produce valuable products. Those products are fishmeal and fish oil, and their manufacture in turn helps to support additional global protein production through their use in aquafeed, thereby supporting the developing aquaculture industry. Despite IFFO and its predecessor organisations communicating this point over that period of time, the message still seems to be lost.

We are talking about a substantial volume of material that comes from this segment. Of the roughly 20 million tonnes used very year to make 5 million tonnes of fishmeal and 1 million tonnes of fish oil, roughly about a third (c.7 million tonnes) comes from the fish processing sector.  The trend is also for this segment to increase over time, recognised by the FAO for the major contribution that it makes to global food security. 

Interestingly there are also regional differences. IFFO commissioned a study with the University of Stirling to look at the availability of fish processing material. That study showed that in Europe the proportion is actually 54% of the raw material, with that increased figure being partly down to improved logistics and practicalities of collection and transfer to fishmeal plants. The research also showed that actually there is more material available than is currently being used, partly due to processing fish at sea and other activities which makes collection difficult.

What is very interesting is that as aquaculture grows, there are more opportunities for byproduct utilisation with even more volume of supply possible ultimately.  As aquaculture product processing also tends to be centralised, it is easier to collect this material, maintain it at low temperatures (important for quality), and use it quickly and efficiently in fishmeal and fish oil production. Respecting some constraints on feeding to the same species (at least in European regulations) this volume will be able to support some additional fishmeal and fish oil production over time, and will be very welcome in feed formulations for additional aquaculture development. Aquaculture will help to support its own development, partially through the utilisation of processing material into fishmeal and fish oil, much needed ingredients for more aquafeed.

Author: Dr Neil Auchterlonie, IFFO's Technical Director

Monday, July 1, 2019