For most of the period 1999 to 2006 the price of fishmeal remained in the US$400-600/tonne area but then, mostly as a result of strong demand from China, the price suddenly increased to around US$1200 causing shockwaves through the market.
In 2008 the price of all oils rose globally and this was particularly true of fish oil. This led many feed formulators to replace fish oil with vegetable oils.
However, in late 2008 it became appar-ent that the disease problems in the Chilean salmon industry were more serious than many had thought and production volumes have declined sharply. Given the importance of the salmon feed market to fish oil, the combined effect of substitution and reduced demand resulted in the price decreasing rapidly.
Soon the ratio of fish oil to rape oil hit a low of 0.5:1.
However, once again market forces resulted in a rapid move back to fish oil again, particularly in salmon diets. As was the case with fishmeal, there is no evidence that the aquaculture industry has been restrained by the availability of fish oil.
Since fish have a relatively low nutri-tional requirement for the omega-3 fatty acids EPA and DHA which are found in fish oil, it is clear that even in salmon diets most of the energy can be supplied in the form of vegetable oil. So market forces will continue to determine the demand for fish oil.
The biggest concern with this approach is, however, that the farmed products pro-duced using dietary vegetable oil, rather than fish oil, are going to be much lower in the healthy very long chain PUFAs, EPA and DHA.
Given the growing body of scientific evidence as to the importance of higher intake of these fatty acids and the consum-ers’ growing realisation that seafood is one of the best sources of EPA and DHA, aqua-culture could endanger the healthy image of its products with the indiscriminate and excessive substitution of marine oils with vegetable oils.
One of the growing questions that has to be answered by any raw material before inclusion into aquaculture feed is: does it derive from a sustainable source?
This question is equally valid when asked of soymeal and palm oil as it is of fishmeal and fish oil. The immediate question is what does sustainable mean, particularly in the context of fisheries and fisheries management.
The most widely accepted international agreement on fish-eries is the Code of Conduct for Responsible Fisheries adopted by the FAO Conference at its Twenty-eighth Session in October 1995.
This code of conduct explicitly states that it was developed to provide anecessary framework for national and international efforts to ensure sustainableexploitation of aquatic living resources in harmony with the environment.
Most of the world’s fishmeal and fish oil comes from countries that are signatories to the code, but it is clear that some countries have made more effort to imple-ment it than others. The outcome has been that there is a growing demand for fishmeal and fish oil that demonstrably comes from fisheries that have been managed using the key principles of the FAO Code.
Another impor-tant issue has been well publicised reports of fishmeal being adulterated with other protein sources - such as poultry offal meal, and even the use of protein mim-ics like melamine. These reports have mostly come from Asia where in some areas there have been fewer controls on quality.
Given the impor-tance of these two issues, IFFO decided in 2008 to develop its own Global Responsible Supply Standard (GRSS). This Standard aims o reassure the value chain that the raw material used is from a fishery managed under the key principles of the FAO Code and that high standards of manufacturing were employed to ensure feed safety and purity. The intention of the GRSS is not to create another eco-label, but to be a business-to-business scheme to give reas-surance to the value chain.
The Standard has been developed with the help of a range of different stakeholders including retailers and environmental NGOs. To be compliant the fishery will have to be assessed by a third party and the factory will have to undergo a physical audit to ensure the agreed standards are met.
The development of the GRSS is near-ing completion and it is hoped that product will be on the market before the end 2009.
This will then give retailers, processors, farmers and feed producers the means to demonstrate that the marine raw materi-als they use in the production of their farmed seafood are responsibly sourced and produced.
Fishmeal and fish oil have been and will continue to be vital ingredients in many types of aquaculture diets. Although sup-plies are likely to remain tight the various sectors of aquaculture will be able to grow by complementing the marine ingredients with ingredients from other sources.
This will result in lower inclusion levels of both fishmeal and fish oil.
Increasingly they will become strate-gic ingredients used at critical times in the life cycle. The issue of responsible raw material sourcing and production of fishmeal and fish oil will become progres-sively more important and will be managed through independently-audited certification schemes such as IFFO’s Global Responsible Supply Scheme.
Author: Andrew Jackson, Technical Director, International Fishmeal and Oil Organisation.