Insect feed article criticised by IFFO

Fishmeal Andrew Mallison: "I would argue that responsibly sourced and used strategically, fishmeal and fish oil are both an efficient and sustainable feed choice"

An article which discusses the use of insect-based salmon feed has been criticised by IFFO director general Andrew Mallison.

Titled ‘Why Salmon Eating Insects Instead of Fish Is Better for Environment’ the National Geographic article looks critically at the sustainability challenges facing fishmeal and fish oil and discusses Netherlands-based company Protix’s development of a fishmeal based on insects, but Mr Mallison has claimed the article quotes information that is both out-of-date and incorrect.

He said: “Although we agree with the need for additional feed options in aquaculture to ensure the growth of this vital industry, the total replacement of fishmeal and fish oil, as called for in this article, is unjustified and damaging to the fish farming industry.

“The practice of feeding fish to fish is labelled as both inefficient and unsustainable in the article, but I would argue that responsibly sourced and used strategically, fishmeal and fish oil are both an efficient and sustainable feed choice.

“The growing management of wild capture fisheries has ensured that in recent years stocks are in fact steady and not declining (UN FAO State of World Fisheries and Aquaculture 2016).”

Responsibly sourced

Over 45% of the global production of fishmeal and fish oil is now independently certified as being safe and environmentally responsible, including in its sourcing of raw materials.

Mr Mallison added IFFO’s latest FIFO (Fish In:Fish Out) ratios using 2015 data show a conversion rate of 1kg of wild fish used in feed creates 1.22kg of farmed salmon, demonstrating that farmed salmon now produce globally more consumable protein than is used in feed.

“This ratio is significantly lower than the out-of-date figures quoted in the article and shows how fishmeal and fish oil are now being more strategically used at key points in aquaculture production cycles with a trend towards optimising their nutritional contributions,” he stressed.

“Many fed farmed fish species have evolved to digest fish protein and much of the modern fish farming industry has been built on feeds using fish based ingredients.”

Clear benefits

Currently 35% of fishmeal is produced from recycled by-product and waste from fish processing.

Fishmeal and fish oil are rich in many of the micronutrients required for fish health, Mr Mallison stated, adding reducing levels of fishmeal in feeds has resulted in feed companies having to make costly supplements.

He pointed out that “production of marine ingredients like fishmeal and fish oil do not require the same levels of fresh water for irrigation, treatment with agricultural chemicals or use land needed to grow crops.

“While insect meal may be a theoretical alternative, the production of the millions of tonnes needed to replace fishmeal is currently not viable.”

He said it makes little sense to exclude fishmeal and fish oil when there is a shortfall in the amount of feed needed to meet demand.

“The reality is that there is an opportunity for alternative ingredients like insect meal without needing to displace fishmeal,” he emphasised.

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