Sustainability claims

This article was published in the International Aquafeed Magazine - August 2020 edition

“There is no alternative to sustainability” was one among the strong statements delivered by the FAO early June when presenting the 2020 State of World Fisheries and Aquaculture. How can sustainability be assessed and ensure both food for an increasing population and minimised impacts on biodiversity and ecosystems?

First, I suggest that we start with clarifying what is at stake. In this respect, I welcome the FAO’s presentation of the status of fish stocks: by volume, 78.7% of marine fish comes from biologically sustainable fish populations. This means that 21.3% (in volume) and 34,2% (in number) of fisheries need improvement.

Second, we need to consider that every food production system generates impacts and has its own specificities. However, a shared vision is necessary to enable an unbiased comparison to be made between all systems.

In the case of marine ingredients, a sector which is currently dominated by fishmeal and fish oil, certification programmes exist, from MarinTrust and Global GAP as well as FEMAS (whose certification unit is the fishmeal and fish oil plant) to MSC (assessing fisheries). Through Chain of Custody standards and forthcoming developments, by-products should be increasingly traced back to their origin, allowing for less fish to be wasted and championing good practices versus IUU. It is MarinTrust’s ambition to achieve full product traceability back to its origins, drawing upon blockchain technologies in the new version of its Chain of Custody published late July 2020. Today, over 50% of marine ingredients worldwide are certified.

What about terrestrial ingredients? Why are the share of certified volumes so low compared to marine ingredients? 2% of soy and 19% of palm oil production is currently certified. Intense scrutiny over ingredients originating from oceans, as well as strong supply chain dependencies, explain the interest that markets (consumers) have been demonstrating in favour of certification programmes since the 2010s. Fish farmers, particularly those that supply western markets, must meet high market expectations while chicken, pork and beef producers are not held to the same set of expectations since they do not have to compete with wild alternatives. The exposure of the marine ingredient sector – and also of the aquaculture sector - is gradually being turned to its advantage.

We also welcome cross-sectoral collaboration on an ambitious – yet realistic- target: the new Best Aquaculture Practices (BAP) Feed Mill Standard requires a minimum of 75 percent of marine ingredients to be from certified sources, or FIPs, from 2025. This target supports MarinTrust's efforts to get 75 percent of global marine ingredients, certified, in assessment or its Improver Programme by 2025. Target 75 is also the name of an initiative led by SFP, the Sustainable Fisheries Partnership. The marine conservation NGO is focused on ensuring 75% of world production in key sectors is – at a minimum – either sustainable (i.e., certified by the MSC programme, or green-listed in SFP’s Metrics tool) or making regular, verifiable improvements. 

This doesn’t mean that vegetable ingredients should remain out of the certification scope. It is crucial that sustainability claims of vegetable ingredient producers be supported by evidence: vegetable feed ingredients are to complement fishmeal and fish oil -being finite resources with a steady supply of around 6 million tonnes a year- in feeds. Efforts are starting to be visible: the new Best Aquaculture Practices (BAP) Feed Mill Standard sets new ambitions in this field as well. Feed mills shall adopt preferential sourcing of responsibly produced soymeal and soy derivatives such that a minimum of 50% (calculation based on mass-balance) are derived from certified sources by June 2022. For all soy inputs, whether certified or not, feed mills shall set clear goals for: traceability to country of origin; verification of chains of custody; exclusion of material derived from illegal deforestation, and; exclusion of material derived from ecologically sensitive areas. After June 2022, if palm oil is used in feeds it shall be RSPO (Round Table on Sustainable Palm Oil) certified.

Certification standards provide assurances to consumers about compliance for the sourcing and production in accordance with internationally recognised standards and brings trust and credibility throughout the value chain. IFFO, the Marine Ingredients Organisation, wants to continue to support and drive the development of responsible and sustainable production of marine ingredients globally.


Petter M Johannessen

IFFO Director General


Monday, August 3, 2020