The challenges faced with the finite supply of fish oil

Friday, October 7, 2016

A recent BBC news article (6th October, 2016) has highlighted the current challenges of including omega-3 fatty acids in farmed salmon. The article focuses on the reduction of fish oil in salmon diets, stating that one of the causes is the cutting back on the amount of anchovies fished and used for feed.  This however is not the case as there is very little demand for anchovy for direct human consumption. The industry has reduced fishing, not because of resistance to use in feed but due to responsible management of the fish stocks. The production of fish oil has thus come down to 900/800,000 metric tonnes per year from its peak of more than 1 million mt.  Over 40% of global fish oil production is certified under an independent scheme for responsible supply[1], a higher percentage than plant based ingredients can offer.

The farmed salmon industry has enjoyed huge growth with approximately 60% of the world’s salmon production now being farmed[2]. Farmed salmon is key part of a healthy balanced diet, with popularity ever-increasing largely due to the huge health benefits of this omega-3 rich fish. 

It is the all-important long chain omega-3’s known as EPA and DHA within fish oil that makes it liquid gold for the fish farming sector.  Health benefits for the consumer are widely known, most notably helping heart and neurological health, as well as foetal development. It also plays an important role in the health of the fish. The industry has continued to produce highly nutritional farmed salmon despite the challenges of a finite supply of fish oil by supplementing marine feed ingredients with plant-based ingredients, mainly of oilseed origin.  As mentioned in the BBC article, levels of fish oil in farmed salmon still make it one of the best sources of long chain omega-3 fatty acids.  In the future however, this finite supply of fish oil does present the industry with a crucial challenge. There are various potential alternatives to fish oil currently under development, but an alternative that is both economical and feasible in terms of supply is still undetermined.

The amount of fish oil used in salmon feed, and therefore the levels of omega-3 in the fish, varies around the world. To allow consumers to make informed choices, it is important that farmers and retailers make informed decisions on nutrition and in turn communicate these to consumers with clear labelling on their products. 


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Please contact:                 Georgie Harris, Communications Manager

T: +44 (0) 2030 539 195



Notes for Editors

  1. For information on the importance of omega-3’s in salmon, see our video -
  2. IFFO represents the marine ingredients industry worldwide. IFFO’s members reside in more than 60 countries, account for over 50% of world production and 75% of the fishmeal and fish oil traded worldwide. Approximately 5 million tonnes of fishmeal are produced each year globally, together with 1 million tonnes of fish oil. IFFO’s headquarters are located in London in the United Kingdom and it also has offices in Lima, Peru, and in Beijing, China. IFFO is an accredited Observer to the UN Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO).
  3. The Global Standard for Responsible Supply (IFFO RS) is a business-to-business certification programme that enables a compliant factory to demonstrate that it responsibly sources its raw material from well-managed fisheries and responsibly converts that into pure and safe products. To be certified fishmeal and fish oil factories must demonstrate sourcing from well managed fisheries and safe and traceable production. Assessments are conducted by an independent certification body and in just over two years, IFFO RS has successfully attracted over 112 certified factories, spread across nine countries. Most of the largest fisheries such as Peruvian anchovy, Alaskan Pollock, Sprat in Denmark and Norway, Boarfish in the UK and Faroe Island, Gulf menhaden in USA and many more have been approved for supply into the manufacturing food chain including whole fish and by- product raw material to produce compliant marine ingredients. For more information visit the IFFO RS Website.
  4. Fishmeal is a natural, balanced, highly nutritious feed ingredient used in diets for farmed fish and crustaceans and as a high protein supplement in nutritionally demanding periods in the life cycle of pigs and poultry, as well as in pet food.

5.       Fish oil is the major natural source (97%) of the healthy long chain omega-3 polyunsaturated fatty acids, EPA and DHA. Most fish oil is used in feeds for farmed fish and there is an expanding market for fish oil for human nutritional supplements and functional foods.


[1] The Global Standard for Responsible Supply (IFFO RS) -