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Marine ingredients ‘don’t make salmon unsustainable’

Eduardo Goycoolea, president of IFFO. Photo: Luca Caparrelli.
Eduardo Goycoolea, president of IFFO. Photo: Luca Caparrelli.

The president of the International Fishmeal and Fish Oil Organisation (IFFO) has defended his industry against critics who claim marine ingredients shouldn’t be used in salmon feed.

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“Using these marine ingredients does not qualify a salmon as unsustainable,” said Eduardo Goycoolea, who pointed out that 50% of fishmeal and fish oil is now certified to be from responsibly managed resources.

In an interview with Fish Farming Expert’s Chilean sister site, Salmonexpert.cl, Goycoolea said fishmeal comprised about 10% of Chilean salmon diets, with between 20% and 30% of the oil used in feed coming from fish.

“However, food producers continue in a race to replace these marine ingredients,” added the president.

‘Many myths’

Goycoolea said the motivation of this race is not the same as that 15 years ago, when the production of fishmeal and fish oil fell and salmon production increased, prompting a fear among fish farmers that marine ingredients would be insufficient to generate aquaculture feeds. 

“In this regard, there are many myths in the industry,” he said.

The most common myth is that the production of fishmeal and fish oil is falling, “which is not true, because it has remained stable since 2010 onwards”, said Goycoolea. 

“In addition, there are raw materials to generate more of these marine ingredients, since all the by-products of aquaculture are used more and more for that purpose”.

Fewer fish in than out

Goycoolea says that "another existing myth, which some still like to repeat, is the kilos of fish needed to grow a kilo of salmon. That ratio became less than 1 kilo of fish per kilo of salmon long ago, which means that the Chilean salmon industry is a net producer of marine proteins. This is a tremendous achievement for everyone in the food chain and we should be proud and trumpet it from the rooftops.”

Responsible activity

Goycoolea said that IFFO works with the IFFO RS program - which although it started as an offshoot the organisation is already independent from it - which reviews the fisheries from which both fishmeal and fish oil are generated, “ensuring that fishing standards and responsible activity are met. So great is the advance, that with the Aquaculture Stewardship Council we redefined the standard of feed for salmon, which means more sustainable raw materials, and here the products with IFFO RS certification are very important”.

He added: “It is unfair to say that fishmeal and fish oil are unsustainable elements in salmon feed, especially when more than 50% of the production of these marine ingredients are IFFO RS certified, giving assurance that they come from responsibly managed resources.”

‘Vegetable product’

Goycoolea continued: “Salmon feed is still dependent on fishmeal and fish oil, because no substitute has been found with the nutritional quality of these marine ingredients.

“It is possible to replace fishmeal and fish oil totally in the diet of the salmon, but if you take these ingredients out of the food, you end up selling a vegetable product, which stops being a fish.”

The Faroes, for example, “get better quality salmon and sell them at a higher price than Chile, using much more fishmeal and fish oil than our industry”, said the IFFO president. 

‘Fish get sicker’

“And although there is no scientific study that can yet support it, we have seen that every time that salmon food producers exacerbate the substitution of fishmeal and fish oil for vegetable proteins, fish get sicker, with all that implies.”

Goycoolea added: “There is production of the essential amino acids EPA and DHA through algae, but it is not yet a consistent source nor of sufficient volume and we believe it will be a complement to fish oil. In addition, the cost of the substitute is three or four times higher, and it is not true that, to date, the consumer pays more for a salmon free of marine ingredients, except in very special markets.”

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