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Sustainability of plant ingredients questioned as fish meal substitutes

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Substituting fish meal in aquaculture feeds with plant ingredients may not be as beneficial for the environment as many predict, according to new research from an international team of experts led by the University of Stirling in the U.K.  Manufacturers of commercial fish feed are increasingly substituting fish meal  a powder made from fish  with crop-based ingredients in a move driven by economic incentives and a desire to improve the sustainability of aquaculture feed, according to an announcement from the University of Stirling.

The multidisciplinary team researched the trade-offs between marine and terrestrial resources as a result of adopting this common practice in shrimp feeds. The researchers focused on the shrimp industry, because it is one of the dominant users of fish meal in the aquaculture sector, the announcement said.  The research found that the substitution of fish meal with plant ingredients merely moved pressures from finite marine resources to land-based food production systems and had environmental repercussions, according to the researchers, who are now calling for a “paradigm shift” in thinking regarding the relative sustainability of aquaculture feed ingredients.
“Substituting fish meal for plant ingredients is considered by many to be environmentally sustainable, as it reduces dependency on finite marine resources. However, this would shift resource demand from the oceans onto the land, potentially adding pressure to the land-based food production systems, which are already under pressure to meet global demand for food, feed, biofuels and bio-based materials," Malcorps said. "In turn, this would affect the environment and biodiversity as well as the availability and prices of crops. “In addition, the nutritional requirements of certain aquatic species may limit the amount of fish meal substitution due to essential nutrients, which are variable or imbalanced in terrestrial plant ingredients. Furthermore, increased inclusion of plant ingredients in aquaculture feed could also affect the nutritional value of farmed seafood.

Fish meal is manufactured predominantly from small pelagic fish as well as from fish processing waste. Currently, the waste element makes up, on average, between 25% and 35% of the product; however, this share is on the increase.  Over the years, in response to fish meal price increases, the product has been increasingly substituted with plant ingredients. In 2000, shrimp feed included 19-40% fish meal, but that had fallen to 11-23% in 2014.The study modeled incremental substitution, from 20-30% to 0%, of fish meal with plant ingredients — such as soybean meal concentrate, rapeseed meal concentrate, pea protein concentrate and corn gluten meal  which are typically included in modern feeds for the two main shrimp species produced globally: whiteleg shrimp Litopenaeus vannamei and black tiger shrimp Penaeus monodon.

According to the announcement, the research found that complete substitution of 20-30% of total fish meal — depending on the species — could lead to increasing the demand for fresh water by up to 63%, for land by up to 81% and for phosphorus by up to 83%.  These are significant increases, as only a small proportion of the feed is actually substituted,” Malcorps explained. “Our findings suggest this approach would lead to additional pressures on essential agricultural resources, with associated socioeconomic and environmental effects as a trade-off to pressures on finite marine resources. It could lead to competition for land and other terrestrial resources, causing social and environmental conflicts that, in turn, may affect the resilience of the global food system.”  Aquaculture feed generally utilizes only a small percentage of global crop production. However, with aquaculture being one of the fastest-growing food sectors, the experts warned that additional pressures on crucial terrestrial resources “may become more obvious” over the coming decades, the university noted.

Malcorps added, “Our model highlights the need for a paradigm shift in the definition of sustainable shrimp feed. Additionally, the model may be equally applicable to other intensively farmed species with similar scenarios of marine and terrestrial feed ingredient requirements. An excessive dependency on the use of plant ingredients for aquaculture could lead to deleterious effects on the environment and indirectly impact human health by altering the nutritional value of the aquaculture products.”  Malcorps suggested finding an “optimal balance” between marine and terrestrial resources in aquaculture feed, strategically including high-quality fish meal, improving the use of fish byproducts and food waste in feeds and investigating the potential for including novel ingredients, such as microbial biomass, algae and insect meals.

The multidisciplinary team included industry and academic experts from across the world, including: MatureDevelopment BV (Netherlands), the Research Institute for Agriculture, Fisheries & Food (Belgium), Mexico Aquaculture Research Inc., Association of International Seafood Professionals (Australia), Aquaculture without Frontiers (U.S.), Universidad Tecnológica del Mar de Tamaulipas (Mexico), IFFO, The Marine Ingredients Organization (U.K.), Utrecht University (Netherlands), University of Zürich (Switzerland) and Harper Adams University (U.K.). 

Department for fisheries gets mixed reaction

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Some say it’s a welcome move; other stakeholders reiterate demand for a full ministry

The formation of a separate department for fisheries at the Centre, a long-pending demand of various stakeholders, may usher in a blue revolution that will stimulate growth in the sector and improve the lives of the coastal community.  BusinessLine that the fisheries department used to get least priority both in terms of Budget allocation and priorities in implementation of various activities as it is part of the Ministry of Agriculture and Farmers’ Welfare. Fisheries and aquaculture in India is an important sector supporting over 14 million fishermen and several million involved in the value chain.  With marine, brackish water and freshwater resources, among others, and more than 10 per cent of the global biodiversity in terms of fish and shellfish species, the country has shown a continuous and sustained increment in fish production.

GDP contribution

Constituting about 6.3 per cent of global fish production, he pointed out that the sector contributes 1.1 per cent of the GDP and 5.15 per cent of the agricultural GDP.  India is the second-largest fish producing country, with total fish production of 10.07 million tonnes, and earned foreign exchange of ₹45,106.89 crore in 2017-18. This accounts for around 10 per cent of the total exports of the country and nearly 20 per cent of the agricultural exports.  India has huge potential to increase fish production from 2.02 million sq km of Exclusive Economic Zones, 1.91 lakh km of rivers and canals, 3.15 million hectares of reservoirs, and 1.24 million hectares of brackish water. This will enhance employment and the revenue of the country.

A ministry

The move may bring in more coordination in conservation measures, fishing regulatory measures and protection of interest of fishermen. Exclusive attention is required to address issues pertaining to the sector, such as dwindling catch, marine pollution, overfishing, climate change, and market stagnation. “Right now, we have been spread out to various ministries to find solutions for our issues. If there is a single department to address the concerns, it will help reduce our burden right from raw material imports to getting export incentives for seafood shipments”.  The formation of a separate department will not serve the purpose for a coordinated action plan in the sector.  “For the last 15 years, we have been demanding for a separate ministry. We have untapped resources in the seas, but the sector is faced with problems such as usage of antibiotics, quality degradation of fish, export related issues and receiving finance which comes under different ministries. The formation of a separate ministry alone will address those issues and enable quick decisions”.

 

Aquaculture key to Norwegian seafood export record

 

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Aquaculture accounted for 72 percent of the record 99 billion kroner of seafood exports achieved by Norway in 2018, despite making up only 40.5 percent of the volume.  During the past year Norway exported 1.1 million tonnes of cultured seafood, with a value of 71 billion kroner – an increase of 5 per cent in both volume and value terms compared to 2017.


Salmon has the largest share of any species measured in terms of both export volume and export value, with a total of nearly 1.1 million tonnes of salmon, worth 67.8 billion kroner, exported in 2018.  “Increased demand for Norwegian salmon in the EU market has contributed to Norwegian salmon exports to the EU exceeding 73 per cent, up from 71 per cent in 2017. Poland is the largest growth market in 2018, with exports increasing from NOK 1.1 billion to NOK 8.8 billion,” says Paul T Aandahl, seafood analyst at the Norwegian Seafood Council.

Trout is the country's second most significant farmed seafood species and Norway exported 46,400 tonnes, worth 3 billion kroner in 2018 – an increase of 16 per cent by volume, and 5 per cent by value compared to 2017.  “The volume growth of 16 per cent for trout exports is the result of normalization following low export volumes in 2017,” explains Aandahl.  Overall the country exported 2.7 million tonnes of seafood to reach the new record, which equates to 37 million meals of seafood every day of 2018.

“Although we did not pass the magical NOK 100 billion marker, this has been another good year for Norwegian seafood exports. In summary, records were broken for Norwegian seafood, both in terms of export value and export volume in 2018. This despite Brexit, the threat of trade wars and other challenges that have together created unpredictability in the world market. Seafood exports to the EU market have increased due to lower competition and a favourable currency situation against the euro. We see a decline in seafood exports to Asia, as a result of increased competition and continued challenging market access to China,” says Renate Larsen, CEO of the Norwegian Seafood Council.While the value of exports has increased by 60 per cent over the past five years, the volume has increased by almost 10 per cent. Greater volume growth is therefore highly desirable in order to develop the industry further. Our goal is for the industry to continue to grow, and as Minister for Fisheries, I work towards this goal every single day,” adds Fisheries Minister Harald Tom Nesvik.