Novel in­gre­di­ents need to be used ef­fec­tively along­side fish­meal and fish oil

Fish Farmer - - Contents Editor’s Welcome - BY NEIL AUCHTERLON­IE


FISH­MEAL and fish oil have been the ma­jor con­stituents of feeds for mod­ern aqua­cul­ture since its in­cep­tion sev­eral decades ago. It is fair to say that the pace of mod­ern aqua­cul­ture de­vel­op­ment would have been far slower if it hadn’t been for the fact that feeds based on these in­gre­di­ents are a straight­for­ward means of pro­vid­ing the re­quired nu­tri­tion for farmed fish.

In the early days of aqua­cul­ture, feed for­mu­la­tions based pre­dom­i­nantly on fish­meal and fish oil were com­par­a­tively un­com­pli­cated; this freed up tech­no­log­i­cal ef­fort to con­cen­trate on other im­por­tant ar­eas of aqua­cul­ture, such as sys­tems tech­nol­ogy, fish health and selec­tive breed­ing, in or­der to cre­ate the vi­able in­dus­try that we have to­day.

A means of sup­ply­ing nu­tri­tion to grow­ing fish in a prac­ti­cal man­ner negated any re­quire­ment for early re­search ef­fort on fish nu­tri­tion that could have de­layed in­dus­try de­vel­op­ment. Fish­meal and fish oil are the foun­da­tion of mod­ern fed aqua­cul­ture.

The rea­son why these ear­lier feeds were so suc­cess­ful in achiev­ing the nu­tri­tional needs of farmed fish is self-ev­i­dent: fish­meal and fish oil are the con­stituent parts of the prey items that farmed fish species such as At­lantic sal­mon would con­sume in their wild state.

For ex­am­ple, wild At­lantic sal­mon are doc­u­mented as prey­ing on blue whit­ing, sandeel and her­ring in the North east At­lantic (Haug­land et al., 2006), and this is what the wild fish choose to eat from all the fish (and in­ver­te­brate) species avail­able in the marine en­vi­ron­ment.

Blue whit­ing, sandeel and her­ring are all in­stantly recog­nis­able raw ma­te­rial sources for fish­meal and fish oil.

The fish species that are cho­sen to be farmed gen­er­ally are high value, be­cause the eco­nomic model for pro­duc­tion is op­ti­mised for fish hold­ing su­pe­rior mar­ket prices, and those higher mar­ket prices then in­crease the like­li­hood of aqua­cul­ture busi­nesses be­ing suc­cess­ful.

Those fish species in the sec­tor of the aqua­cul­ture in­dus­try that has driven in­no­va­tion have tended to be the higher trophic level, and there­fore car­niv­o­rous fish species. They are ob­li­gate pis­ci­vores, and evolved to utilise di­etary pro­teins and fats that are found in lower trophic level fish species.

Whether the raw ma­te­rial is whole fish, or by-prod­uct, all the man­u­fac­ture of fish­meal and fish oil does is re­move wa­ter fol­low­ing a cook­ing process, thereby pro­vid­ing more nu­tri­tion­ally con­cen­trated ma­te­ri­als that are first class in­gre­di­ents for aquafeeds.

Af­ter sev­eral mil­len­nia of evo­lu­tion, it should come as no sur­prise that the op­ti­mum nu­tri­tion avail­able from whole fish and by-prod­ucts via fish­meal and fish oil to farmed fish is ex­actly what they need, phys­i­o­log­i­cally speak­ing.

With com­par­a­tively high pro­tein lev­els (usu­ally 68-72 per cent), high di­gestibil­ity (of­ten 90 per cent or more), per­fectly pro­filed amino acid and fatty acid bal­ances, and a range of mi­cronu­tri­ents in­clud­ing vi­ta­mins and min­er­als that are es­sen­tial for heath and growth, fish­meal and fish oil are bench­mark aquafeed in­gre­di­ents against which the per­for­mance of other in­gre­di­ents are mea­sured.

The real is­sue with fish­meal and fish oil is avail­abil­ity of sup­ply. For the last 25 years or so, the pro­duc­tion of these ma­te­ri­als has been rel­a­tively stable, at ap­prox­i­mately five mil­lion tonnes of fish­meal, and just un­der one mil­lion tonnes of fish oil.

A key point here is that sup­ply has not in­creased along­side the in­creased need for aquafeed vol­ume. There just isn’t enough of these ma­te­ri­als to sat­isfy the de­mands of a con­tin­u­ally grow­ing aqua­cul­ture, hence aquafeed, sec­tor as the ma­te­ri­als are de­pen­dent on man­aged nat­u­ral re­sources, that is, marine fish­eries.

Dis­ap­point­ingly, the myth that a grow­ing aqua­cul­ture sec­tor puts ad­di­tional pres­sure on cap­ture fish­eries for more fish­meal and fish oil con­tin­ues to be per­pe­trated de­spite the data show­ing clearly that there is no ad­di­tional sup­ply of marine in­gre­di­ents de­spite a rapidly grow­ing aqua­cul­ture in­dus­try.

This is be­cause, for the most part, these fish­eries of small pelagic fish species are reg­u­lated, man­aged and com­par­a­tively pro­duc­tive, in con­trast to some of the other food fish species fish­eries.

Not all the an­nual sup­ply of fish­meal and fish oil goes to aqua­cul­ture, of course (IFFO’s 2018 es­ti­mates in­di­cate 74.6 per cent and 72.7 per cent re­spec­tively), and the mar­ket ul­ti­mately de­cides the destinatio­n of these high value in­gre­di­ents.

Fish­meal and fish oil carry with them sev­eral decades of data and in­for­ma­tion about raw ma­te­rial sup­ply, pro­duc­tion, nu­tri­ent pro­file and other de­tails. They are a known fac­tor in the feed in­dus­try, and as such re­main the most im­por­tant con­trib­u­tor to nu­tri­tion­ally com­plete feeds, even if they no longer oc­cupy the ma­jor­ity vol­ume in the for­mu­la­tions.

Their per­for­mance is known and quan­ti­fied to the de­gree that they form im­por­tant in­gre­di­ents for aquafeeds.

In­ter­est­ingly, though, there are still dis­cov­er­ies

or new rev­e­la­tions of the im­por­tance of some com­pounds in both ma­te­ri­als that may have fur­ther ben­e­fi­cial growth or health ef­fects for fish stock in aqua­cul­ture pro­duc­tion sys­tems- for ex­am­ple, tau­rine in fish­meal and ce­toleic acid in fish oil.

The ma­te­ri­als’ full nu­tri­tional value re­mains to be dis­cov­ered, which is a state­ment of truth that does not rest well along­side the nu­mer­ous claims, ap­pear­ing with in­creas­ing fre­quency in the me­dia, for fish­meal and fish oil re­place­ments.

How can true re­place­ment be vaunted when we don’t yet know ex­actly how im­por­tant fish­meal and fish oil are to fish growth and health?

A key facet of fish­meal and fish oil pro­duc­tion that is well known to those in the in­dus­try is the suc­cess story that is the de­vel­op­ment of a recog­nis­able cer­ti­fi­ca­tion stan­dard, and the out­stand­ing level of up­take that has been ob­served across the sec­tor.

Re­gret­tably, the im­por­tance of this work is not quite as fa­mil­iar to those out­side the sec­tor, and es­pe­cially to those who seek to crit­i­cise the use of fish­meal and fish oil in aqua­cul­ture, or even aqua­cul­ture it­self.

It is, how­ever, un­de­ni­able that the de­vel­op­ment of the IFFO Re­spon­si­ble Sup­ply stan­dard, and its im­ple­men­ta­tion since 2009, has done a very great deal to im­prove prod­uct trace­abil­ity, in­tegrity and re­spon­si­ble sourc­ing in the sup­ply chain.

With an up­take that rep­re­sents in ex­cess of 50 per cent of an­nu­ally pro­duced fish­meal and fish oil, the level of cer­ti­fi­ca­tion goes far be­yond that of other feed in­gre­di­ents.

The IFFO RS Stan­dard has two parts: an as­sess­ment of the fish­ery from where the fish­meal plant sources its raw ma­te­rial. (This as­sess­ment con­sists of an in­de­pen­dent desk­top based re­view of fish­eries man­age­ment that fol­lows the UN Fish­eries and Agri­cul­tural Or­gan­i­sa­tion’s (FAO) Code of Con­duct for Re­spon­si­ble Fish­eries.); and an in­de­pen­dent au­dit of the fish­meal and fish oil pro­duc­ing plant where ro­bust sourc­ing, trace­abil­ity and man­u­fac­tur­ing sys­tems must be in place.

The IFFO RS stan­dard has ex­isted for more than a decade and although ini­tially de­vel­oped by IFFO, is a sep­a­rate en­tity in its own right in or­der to en­sure full sep­a­ra­tion of the cer­ti­fi­ca­tion stan­dard from the trade associatio­n work.

The IFFO RS stan­dard will grow fur­ther, both from full cer­ti­fi­ca­tion and also within the Im­prover Pro­gramme (IP). The IP is based on the con­cept of Fish­ery Im­prove­ment Projects (FIPs).

FIPs them­selves are a way of ini­ti­at­ing pos­i­tive change in lo­ca­tions where reg­u­la­tion may not be en­tirely ef­fec­tive for a num­ber of dif­fer­ent rea­sons. On top of the tar­get fish­ery, FIPs will also tend to have ben­e­fits for the broader marine en­vi­ron­ment as they are of­ten or­gan­ised on ecosys­tem based fish­ery man­age­ment prin­ci­ples, as well as the long term sus­tain­abil­ity of the fish­ing com­mu­ni­ties that pro­vide the raw ma­te­rial.

In sum­mary, fish­meal and fish oil con­tinue to have a bright fu­ture in the aquafeed in­dus­try by virtue of their unique nu­tri­tional con­tri­bu­tions, level of cer­ti­fi­ca­tion and en­vi­ron­men­tal per­for­mance.

Although the need for more feed vol­ume is clear with a con­tin­ued growth of aqua­cul­ture, the novel in­gre­di­ents that are be­ing de­vel­oped need to be used ef­fec­tively along­side fish­meal and fish oil to pro­vide optimal fish nu­tri­tion for many years to come.

It is im­por­tant that the fun­da­men­tal im­por­tance of fish­meal and fish oil is recog­nised in aquafeeds, and the feed pro­duc­ers them­selves should not be shy about men­tion­ing that they use re­spon­si­bly sourced fish­meal in their prod­uct. It may yet in time be re­garded as what it is – the nat­u­ral diet of the farmed fish species.

“Fsh­meal and fish oil are bench­mark aquafeed in­gre­di­ents against which the per­for­mance of other in­gre­di­ents are mea­sured”

From top: Blue whit­ing, sandeel, her­ring

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