Study looks at future global supplies of fish oil, meal

There could be changes ahead for future supplies of fish meal and fish oil, according to a new study from the University of Stirling in Scotland.


There could be changes ahead for future supplies of fish meal and fish oil, according to a new study from the University of Stirling in Scotland.

These developments have implications for the animal and aquaculture feed sectors, as marine ingredients are key raw materials, providing high-quality proteins and vital fats in the form of the omega-3 fatty acids, eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA).

For the study, commissioned by the Marine Ingredients Association, IFFO, the Scotland-based researchers used models for current and future production from aquaculture and fisheries to calculate the future availability of these important marine ingredients. Basic data were sourced from the United Nations’ Food and Agriculture Organization.

Among the key findings of the report is that increasing amounts of fish meal and fish oils are being produced as coproducts, and that this looks likely to develop further as the aquaculture sector continues to grow worldwide. As fisheries focus more on catching whole fish for direct human consumption, more marine ingredients will need to be sourced from materials currently regarded as inedible wastes.

At present, the report says, these by-products are under-utilized, for a number of logistical and practical reasons. However, within 10 years, it has calculated that fish meal production from coproducts will exceed that from whole fish. However, because of the low value of the coproducts, the processing will only be economically attractive if large quantities of material are available for collection.

Europe out-performs other regions in terms of the use of coproducts for fish meal production, while China is singled out as having the greatest potential for the development of these processes, according to the study.

For the whole of Asia, the potential for gains in fish meal and fish oil from underutilized resources amounts to an estimated 27 million metric tons of material annually. However, the report’s authors add a caveat: Much of this material would not be certified unless greater efforts are made to extend current schemes, such as IFFO’s Global Standard for the Responsible Supply (IFFO RS)or the Marine Stewardship Council (MSC) scheme.

“Models such as this are useful in providing an overview of future scenarios for the industry, and are important in managing the security of supply of marine ingredients within global food supply chains,” said Dr. Neil Auchterlonie, technical director of IFFO. “The Stirling University team has provided some excellent predictions of future supply of these vital ingredients into aquatic and terrestrial protein production systems.”

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