IFFO's response to ‘How vital fish stocks in Africa are being stolen from human mouths to feed pigs and chickens on Western factory farms’

Monday, September 19, 2016

Letter to the Editor, The Independent

19th September 2016


Dear Sir/Madame,


Following your article ‘How vital fish stocks in Africa are being stolen from human mouths to feed pigs and chickens on Western factory farms’, published on 18th September, I would like to  respond with the following points:


Should fish be fed to people or farmed animals?

The marine ingredient industry has never aimed to take fish away from direct human consumption (DHC).  The production of fishmeal and fish oil has developed over time based on fish that is either not suitable for human consumption due to its quality, or is unwanted by the market.  There is also a significant and increasing amount of recycled by-product from fish processing used as raw material (now around 35% of total fish used).  Providing fishmeal and fish oil is produced from well managed stocks and does not detract from direct human consumption, it can and should be used to contribute to human nutrition via use in farmed animal and fish feed.  Fishmeal contributes greatly to global food security through this route.  The fish farming industry particularly has huge potential to provide good nutrition in developed and developing world countries, and also rural employment, without the conflicts over land and freshwater use that are often observed in terrestrial systems.


Prices are being forced up by local fishmeal producers, taking fish away from direct human consumption markets.

Fishmeal producers do not force up prices as they have no cost advantage over processing for DHC - the opposite is actually true as fishmeal and fish oil production needs significant capital investment.  In most free markets, fishers choose the best market for their catch and should be allowed to sell their catch wherever they can make the best return.  Fishmeal and fish oil are the most nutritious and digestible sources of protein and essential Omega 3 oils available and the increased global demand for farmed animal and fish feed has resulted in an increase in the price paid.  Intervention in this mechanism has been tried in other parts of the world without success. 


If there is a local need to ensure fish is made available for direct human consumption, this needs to be regulated by local government who will need to balance the rights of fishers with those of local consumers.


Only 200kg of fishmeal is produced from 1 tonne of wet fish.

This implies a wasteful process which is completely untrue. The process involves cooking the fish to drive off the moisture content - the loss in weight is water with the remaining fishmeal and fish oil being fully utilised. There is recovery of protein and oil from the process water, and often a recapture of energy in the form of heat, to reduce environmental impact.


The industry has dodged publicity.

Members of IFFO, the trade organisation for the marine ingredients industry, represent approximately 60% of the worlds' production.  For the last 50 years, IFFO has provided information to governments, NGO's and the public.  Information is available on the IFFO website and progress the industry is making towards more sustainable production and the responsible use of marine ingredients is regularly presented to journalists, NGOs and through industry conferences every year.


There are more fishmeal factories being built in West Africa at a time when fish landings are reducing.

While IFFO does not have any members in Senegal, it is widely recognised that this region is rich in living marine resources but has many limitations to proper management of these resources, leading to concerns about overfishing and illegal fishing.  IFFO members support responsible management of fish resources and do not process any fish landed illegally.  IFFO producers can be certified under an independently governed and audited Responsible Supply Scheme, where the source of the raw material is audited, must be fully traceable, from well managed stocks (or by-product) and legally landed.  Full details are available on the IFFO website.


Yours faithfully,


Neil Auchterlonie

Technical Director, IFFO


-Ends -



Please contact:                 Georgie Harris, Communications Manager

T: +44 (0) 2030 539 195

E: gharris@iffo.net


Notes for Editors

  1. 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).
  2. 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.
  3. 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.
  4. 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.