THE Marine Conservation Society is urging the UK aquaculture supply chain, from feed producers to retailers, to cooperate in reducing the heavy reliance on fish oil prevalent in the industry.
The global availability of fish oil is limited, explains the MCS, and the continued growth in the farming of carnivorous fish such as salmon will be dependent on increased levels of replacement of fish oil with plant oil in diets.
A MCS hosted recent event in Edinburgh sponsored by the three main feed manufacturers – EWOS, Biomar and Skretting, highlighted issues in the supply of marine ingredients, the regulatory position in relation to use of animal by products as well as the advances that have been made in reducing fishmeal usage.
A recent report from Norway predicts a serious shortage of fish oil possibly within the next 2 to 3 years. Both the MCS event and the recent Channel 4 “Fish Fight’ fish week series of programmes highlight the need to use our precious marine resources in a responsible way which means looking to alternative ingredients to supplement fish oil.
Fish oil inclusion will have to be reduced considerably if Scottish salmon farmers want to get certified by the Aquaculture Stewardship Council, as limits on wild fish in the diet is a key component of the salmon standard.
Dawn Purchase, MCS Aquaculture Officer says: “In the UK we have still have significant use of fish oil only diets for farmed salmon and the industry can no longer continue to use this valuable resource in this way. It is time to move to a strategic use of our precious and valuable wild capture fisheries. This can only be achieved through a greater level of substitution with alternatives in the diets of farmed fish.”
“There is a wealth of knowledge and research carried out on alternative feed ingredients, both proteins and oils from vegetable sources, algae oil, ragworm and bloodmeal. The UK industry have to be bold and introduce these ingredients into farmed salmon diets, it is the responsible thing to do in a world of limited resources.”
As Dawn Purchase points out, consumers want healthy, affordable, tasty fish that is also produced responsibly.“A substituted diet can deliver that. Farmed fish reared on high fish meal or fish oil only diets command a premium and will be a luxury for seafood consumers but given that our oceans are fished to maximum capacity the question is whether this luxury is a responsible one when the alternatives of the future can be used today,” she concludes.