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NEW research is to be carried out by the Scottish Aquaculture Research Forum (SARF), on the potential for seaweed as a viable source of raw material to feed fish, in association with Marks and Spencer.

SARF has commissioned this research to look at the potential to use seaweed (macroalgae) and other microscopic algae as commercially viable sources of raw materials to feed fish.  There is increasing interest worldwide in growing micro and macro algae for a variety of purposes - including raw materials for fish diets.  Scotland has a growing body of research expertise, as well as commercial and political interest.

Welcoming the initiative, Scott Landsburgh, Chief Executive of Scottish Salmon Producers’ Organisation, said: “Farmed salmon is a healthy, nutritious and sustainable protein.  It is already one of the most efficient livestocks, comparing very favourably with other farmed animals such as chicken and pigs. 

“It also outcompetes nature. For example, on average, farmed salmon use 80% less fish meal and fish oil than would be eaten by salmon growing in the wild.  However, we welcome any initiative that will further enhance these sustainable credentials.”

Richard Luney, Wild Fish and Aquaculture Manager from Marks and Spencer said: “As part of our Plan A environmental and ecological initiatives we have committed to sourcing all of our aquaculture species and feeds from the most sustainable sources by 2015. By supporting the SARF project we aim to understand the potential for algae to supplement our aquaculture feeds with ingredients that have the potential to provide essential health benefits to our customers whilst taking some of the pressure off wild fish sources.”

Richard Slaski of Epsilon Resource Management Ltd, the contractor chosen to undertake the research project, said: “On a global basis animal feeds consume a significant proportion of available fish meal and fish oils. We know that fish oil equivalents, in particular, can be produced by some types of algae. If we can use algae to provide these ingredients, not only will it make feed formulation more flexible, it will cut out some of the intermediate steps in the food chain and aquaculture will be doing its part to reduce pressure on wild fish stocks.”

Dr Piers Hart, Aquaculture Policy Officer for WWF Scotland, who was involved in developing the specification for the review, commented: “WWF welcomes this new approach to help address one of the key challenges for the future of the fish farming industry. The potential for replacing wild fish with seaweeds in feeds for farmed fish is a fantastic opportunity to improve the sustainability of salmon farming and fish farming in general.”

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