One of the earliest and often quoted definitions of sustainability was that provided by the UN’s World Commission on Environment and Development (known as the Bruntlandt Commission) in 1987, which stated: “Sustainable development is development that meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs”[1].  Although there have been other attempts to provide a definition since then, that is the most often quoted description that there is of sustainability.  In some format, IFFO has represented the international fishmeal and fish oil industry since 1959, and this statement reflects our approach since then, ensuring that the industry has continued to supply those high value nutritious ingredients that are so important for farmed animal growth and health over decades. 

Although often regarded in purely environmental terms, it is important to recognise that within the global organisations community (e.g. UN, OECD, WTO) there is a consensus that there are three pillars of sustainability: social, economic and environmental.  Those three pillars are often afforded equal, or near equal, importance, even though in fisheries and seafood industry discussions the environmental pillar appears to dominate.  It is clear that the social and economic components of sustainability are equally important to the fishmeal industry, and at IFFO we certainly recognise the essential contribution the industry makes to rural communities and their economies, as well as to global health and nutrition.  

As an industry that is reliant on the exploitation of a natural resource for its livelihood, the fishmeal and fish oil industry has more than a passing interest in ensuring that the resource on which it is dependent is available in coming years.  The bedrock of that approach is efficient and competent fisheries management, which obviously plays an important role in raw material availability in the present and in the future.  The increasing proportion of byproduct use in fishmeal and fish oil production also brings this resource into the discussion, and the connection to sustainability for this material is clear.  The contributions of these raw materials are changing subtly over time, and this is another aspect of the sustainability agenda that is worthy of consideration.  The use of byproducts in the manufacture of a high-value product such as fishmeal aligns well with the policies of organisations like the European Commission on Blue Growth[2] and the Circular Economy[3], as well as that of the FAO[4].

Within this section we take a look at those important aspects of sustainability, which are:

  1. Environmental (fisheries)
  2. Environmental (byproduct)
  3. Social (how does the fishmeal industry support the local communities where the industry is located)
  4. Economic (what the industry means as an economic contribution to local, regional and national economies)