IFFO's Monthly Update constitutes a key communications tool for the marine ingredients industry and its main players. This report is dedicated to the needs of IFFO's members, bringing together industry news and insights from our diverse network. 


August 2020

What does it take to be considered sustainable?


In its June 29 edition, The IntraFish quoted Geir Molvik, the CEO of Mitsubishi-owned salmon farmer Cermaq, calling for “a more nuanced debate on the use of alternative ingredients in feed”. "Putting one percent grasshopper meal in the feed does not automatically mean that it becomes more sustainable," Molvik told IntraFish.

His statement raises the following questions: what does it take to be considered sustainable? Are some materials more sustainable than others, and on what basis? What is the foundation for newly found raw materials’ sustainability claims? Is it more sustainable to use non-marine resources so as to ease the pressure on oceans? Should non-animal materials be considered superior? 

The current debate on alternative feed ingredients is not based on any definite element which could have been scientifically proven. Let us start with a definition. The Food and Agriculture Organization defined sustainable diets as “protective and respectful of biodiversity and ecosystems, culturally acceptable, accessible, economically fair and affordable; nutritionally adequate, safe and healthy, while optimizing natural and human resources”.

To better understand what is at stake when debating over sustainable sources of protein, we need to clearly state what is already widely acknowledged and what remains to be proven. “Fish and fisheries products are actually recognized not only as some of the healthiest foods on the planet, but also as some of the less impactful on the natural environment.” (FAO – 2020 SOFIA report). All aspects of food production contribute to climate changing emissions. But agriculture – and specifically meat and dairy farming – has the greatest impact. 

We also know that marine ingredients – including by-products, that now provide one third of fishmeal and fish oil - provide farmed fish with unmatched amounts and quality of highly sought nutrients, from long chain fatty acids (EPA and DHA) to vitamins A, B and D, minerals and amino-acids. Plant-sourced shorter chain omega-3s (usually alpha-linoleic acid, ALA) are different and do not confer the same health benefits although all fish species are different: “For instance, the increasing incidence and severity of inflammatory diseases such as heart and skeletal muscle inflammation and cardiomyopathy syndrome in farmed Atlantic salmon have paralleled the increasing use of vegetable oil in the diet. The impact of these diseases was shown to be mitigated by functional feeds that were enriched in EPA through increasing fish oil inclusion” according to Prof. Doug Tocher, from the Stirling University (UK).

It is only natural that science on new raw materials be way behind research works on marine ingredients: the latter have been used for decades and have been the foundation of aquaculture since its birth. Full life cycle assessments as well as studies on health impacts remain to be delivered to retailers and consumers so that they fully understand the properties of new raw materials.

The marine ingredients sector knows where challenges lie: in those fisheries that are poorly managed (21.3% in volume and 34,2% in number of fisheries according to the FAO’s 2020 SOFIA report). A missing legal framework can result in bad social and environmental practices, which in turn damage the supply chain’s reputation. As in all food production systems, key requirements are product segregation and traceability, which ensure transparency. We have learnt from experience – see the Gulf of Thailand case study, among others - that improvement in fisheries can be driven in the long term, especially through FIPs.

The industry is fortunate enough to rely on standards that provide trustworthy guidelines – based on the FAO and the ISO’s international guidance - about which sustainability claims should or shouldn’t be made. Our priority should be to increase the volume of certified marine ingredients beyond the current uptake that represents over 50% of annually produced fishmeal and fish oil. This is a prerequisite to a continued and sustainable growth of aquaculture, in which new ingredients that are being developed will be used effectively alongside fishmeal and fish oil. 

Petter Martin Johannessen

July 2020


The FAO’s State of World Fisheries and Aquaculture was released last month. The 2020 SOFIA report focuses on “sustainability in action”, covering the sector’s main features as well as climate change adaptation, women’s contribution to the fishery sector, and emerging issues such as new technologies and aquaculture biosecurity.

It is widely acknowledged -throughout the whole value chain- that there is no alternative to sustainability and that programmes are needed to further improve fisheries and aquaculture. I can only praise the FAO for updating the way it presents the status of fish stocks and displaying the proportion of seafood that comes from sustainable fisheries vs. unsustainable fisheries. It turns out that by volume, 78.7% of marine fish comes from biologically sustainable fish populations.

This clear statistic will undoubtedly help focus on real issues: the 21.3% share (in volume) and the 34,2% share (in number) of fisheries that need improvement. There is a willingness to raise awareness on this challenge, which might be the first step towards positive change: awareness enables collective action and coordination.

This is precisely what is happening with certification programmes: efforts to coordinate on an ambitious – yet realistic- target are now visible: 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. Aquafeed standards help incentivise responsible fishery management. And it works: over 50% of all marine ingredients produced globally are now certified under the MarinTrust programme.

However, it is in all stakeholders’ interest to not only focus on the marine ingredient sector’s sustainability but to cast our eyes beyond our sector and also consider the sustainability of vegetable feed ingredients which are to complement fishmeal and fish oil in feeds. It is interesting to note that the new Best Aquaculture Practices (BAP) Feed Mill Standard sets new ambitions in this field as well. It states that 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.

The marine ingredient component of feed has been well scrutinised for decades, and as a result credible means of providing assurance has been developed, including third party certifications through the creation of the IFFO RS (now MarinTrust) programme back in 2009. However, if we are to achieve global sustainability successfully it requires a shared vision and collective action.

Sustainability is a shared ambition for us all in order to ensure both food safety and biodiversity now and in the long term!

Petter M Johannessen

IFFO Director General

June 2020


As most countries of the Northern hemisphere are enjoying a sunny weather, it is an opportunity for people to increase their intakes of vitamin D. Few foods provide this precious vitamin and oily fish are one among the few, along with egg yolk and liver. It is well known that vitamin D plays a vital role in the immune system and in protecting against respiratory infection, as reminded by the McCarrison Society, a nutrition think tank.

3.1 billion people in the world derive 20% of their daily intake of animal protein from aquatic systems and seafood is part of a balanced and recommended diet. Vitamin D is not seafood’s only nutritional benefit. Fish also contains vitamins A and B as well as calcium and phosphorus, a great source of minerals and long chain fatty acids (omega-3s EPA and DHA). The EAT-Lancet report published in January 2019 states that aquaculture could “help steer production of animal source proteins towards reduced environmental effects and enhanced health benefits”.

Salmon is a highly nutritious product. It contains more omega-3s than most other fish. However, salmon have a very limited ability to make EPA and DHA. The concentration of EPA and DHA in their flesh is directly linked to their diet, which in the wild is rich in fish oil.

As the Global Salmon Initiative (GSI) released a new sustainability report mid-May, it is of high interest to see how the levels of fish oil in farmed salmon feed have been evolving. The GSI report is very well documented and provides seven years of data on 15 key indicators (ten environmental and five social), for more than 50% of the world salmon farming industry. An increasing trend can be noted in 2019 compared with 2018 regarding the amount of fish oil used in farmed salmon feed. This is good news for consumers.

IFFO welcomes this report which acknowledges that fish oil and fishmeal remain important and strategic ingredients in salmon farming. Business strategies have led to evolving rates of inclusion of fishmeal and fish oil, but the bottom line is that fishmeal and fish oil provide an unmatched nutritional package to farmed salmon, which are then passed on to humans.

Quality feed means quality food.

Petter M.Johannessen
IFFO Director General

May 2020

Fish oil is so much more than omega3!

Supplements containing omega-3 fatty acids are experiencing a growing demand in the midst of the Covid-19 crisis. People want to boost their immunity systems and fish oil capsules are highly sought-after, although no robust data have emerged yet. Treatments containing fish oil, omega-3 fatty acids being trialed on COVID-19 patients are starting to make the headlines and this doesn’t come as a surprise considering the range of benefits that fish oil offers.

However, when it comes to boosting immunity against coronavirus, hasty conclusions shouldn’t be drawn right now: there is still “an insufficient body of scientific literature to connect EPA/DHA to benefits of either positive general or viral immunity outcomes in a healthy population”, as GOED, The Global Organization for EPA and DHA, underlines.

Fish oil is already highly recognised for its benefits, both for animals and humans, based not only on its high levels of omega-3 fatty acids but also on the vitamins A and D that it contains. “The omega-3 long-chain polyunsaturated fatty acids (EPA and DHA) have beneficial effects in a range of human pathologies including cardiovascular and inflammatory diseases, and important roles in neural development and function” says Professor Douglas Tocher in the article that he wrote for IFFO. It is recommended that healthy adults consume a minimum of 250–500 mg combined EPA and DHA each day as part of a healthy diet. Beyond these, the benefits of using fish oil include a dietary source of energy and essential for overall good health and optimal growth. Fish oil also greatly enhances palatability of the feed – which is vital at the early stages of the fish growth.

Fish and seafood are the main sources of EPA and DHA but there is a gap: a recent study led by Helen Ann Hamilton, Ph.D., has highlighted the current human nutritional supply of EPA and DHA, which is estimated to be only 30% of the demand. Aquaculture, as the biggest user and supplier of EPA and DHA, has driven the research into new sources (microalgal biomasses and oil, and genetically modified oilseed crops). Each product may play a role, but the key point is that EPA and DHA are the main source of these long chain omega-3s at the current time. Plant-sourced shorter chain omega-3s (usually alpha-linoleic acid, ALA) are different and do not confer the same health benefits: the human body can convert ALA to EPA, but the process is inefficient (less than 5%). Marine microalgae is potentially the most important marine ingredient for supplementing fish oil supply, but as with all production processes there are environmental impacts from these processes (production is based on the use of vegetable substrates containing sugars, often sugar cane or corn, and the process requires energy inputs), that also need to be accounted for.

Petter M Johannessen

April 2020

Fishmeal is so much more than protein!

Now more than ever, health and safety has come to the fore and ranks top of the world’s agenda. Food production is a broad and multifaceted sector with a complex value chain. It bears a huge responsibility: feeding the world in a healthy way but also in a responsible way. The seafood sector’s responsibility was highlighted in the recent EAT-Lancet report, in order to achieve two goals: a healthier population and a healthier planet: “Agriculture and fisheries must not only produce enough calories to feed a growing global population but must also produce a diversity of foods that nurture human health and support environmental sustainability.”

According to the FAO, the obvious source of fish protein for human consumption in the future will be aquaculture. Fishmeal and fish oil have a special place in the necessary development of aquaculture, bringing unique qualities to the required feed supplies. They are a secure, nutritious protein to feed the world. But they are much more than protein. With fishmeal used as a feed ingredient, farmers can rely on a balanced, highly digestible and palatable product, which is to be used at strategic stages of the production cycle of animal in support of growth and health. Fishmeal contains typically 60% to 72% protein and 5% to 12% fat, which is high in the health promoting omega-3 very long chain polyunsaturated fatty acids EPA and DHA, often referred to as 'omega-3s'. The proteins in fishmeal have excellent amino acid profiles that fit precisely the amino acid requirements for carnivorous fish species. The modern aquaculture industry would not exist in its current form without these ingredients as they meet fish nutritional requirements in a single package.

Although aquafeed is the major market, taking 65-70% of the material, fishmeal is also key ingredients for other species, including pigs (where they are used in weaning diets) poultry, and pet food.  For these other animals, fishmeal provides recognized superior nutrition. This way, they provide a direct connection between fisheries and terrestrial food production. Those nutrients provide nutritional benefits to a very wide range of consumers throughout the world and ensure that quality food is produced from quality feed.

Quality feed means quality food.

The industry’s pioneering approach back in the 2000s to create a certification platform known as IFFO RS, was instrumental in providing assurance on the quality of marine ingredients used as feeds, especially with regards to its traceability. Today, bringing more clarity to the way the industry interacts with certification schemes has become a requirement and I strongly support IFFO RS’ rebranding.

Petter Martin Johannessen

In IFFO's newsletter this month you'll learn about:

- IFFO's analysis on the reduction industry's situation amid the Covid-19 crisis
- IFFO RS' new name
- What makes fishmeal so special
- Marine ingredients have a multiplier effect