Looking at the European Green Deal Through the Lens of the Marine Ingredients Industry

The following is a guest editorial from Petter M. Johannessen, Director General of IFFO, The Marine Ingredients Industry, a partner organization to GOED.

The marine ingredients industry is delighted with the European Commission’s recent announcement of a European Green Deal to become the world’s first climate-neutral continent by 2050. IFFO, The Marine Ingredients Organisation is fully convinced that growth does not always mean more, but also better. In our view, this deal will trigger even more innovation in the sector and contribute to increased efficiency and competitiveness. 

The European Commission’s observation seems to us to be clear and lucid: EU’s industry accounts for 20% of the EU’s emissions. More than 90% of biodiversity loss and water stress come from resource extraction and processing. Only 12% of the materials used by EU industry come from recycling. In March 2020, the EU will adopt an industrial strategy that will support the green transformation: “A key aim will be to stimulate the development of new markets for climate neutral and circular products. The decarbonisation and modernisation of energy-intensive industries are essential.” 

The small pelagic fisheries have relatively low energy requirements

In relation to fishing fleets, the catch per unit effort (CPUE) concept is recognised in fisheries management and is relevant to fisheries performance including fuel use. This generally varies quite a bit and any downward trend is seen as a measure of poor performance in fisheries as less fish being available means more effort is required in catching them. Small pelagic species generally come out well when looking at the costs involved and the return in relation to producing food as a function of the gear technology adopted in their harvesting. The small pelagic fisheries are inherently low impact as they are predominantly purse seine gear, meaning their physical impact is minimal, bycatches are low, and they have relatively low energy requirements in relation to the volume of fish caught.

Supporting sustainable and responsible supply chains

As an industry relying on a natural resource, the marine ingredients industry is conscious that the priority is to utilise the oceans’ resources in a sustainable way. The development of the IFFO Responsible Supply standard, and its implementation since 2009, has done a very great deal to improve product traceability, integrity and responsible sourcing in the supply chain. With an uptake that represents in excess of 50% of annually produced fishmeal and fish oil, the level of certification goes far beyond that of other feed ingredients. Through its Improver Programme, based on the concept of Fishery Improvement Projects (FIPs), positive change in locations where regulation may not be entirely effective can be initiated. The ambition is that 75% of all marine ingredients are IFFO RS certified by 2025.

88% of the small pelagic fish species that are predominantly used for fishmeal and fish oil production are now “reasonably well managed or better” according to the Sustainable Fisheries Partnership (SFP) report on Reduction Fisheries published in 2019.  The stock with the largest contribution to this category continues to be the Anchoveta - Peruvian northern-central stock, which represents approximately 32 percent of the total catch, compared to 33 percent in the previous overview.

Marine Ingredients: Key players in the circular economy

The marine ingredients Industry has been involved for years - since at least the 1970s - in a circular process that finds a usage for every part of the raw material resource. Today, the use of trimmings and byproduct from fish processed for food represents one third of total world fishmeal production. Byproducts include heads, viscera, frames, skins, etc., and once processed, also provide a high quality feed ingredient with high protein content, high digestibility, excellent amino acid and fatty acid profile as well as a range of micronutrients important for farmed fish health (predominantly vitamins and minerals). The resource utilisation of byproducts is also an important means of ensuring that the global supply of EPA and DHA is optimised as far as raw material availability is concerned. Securing EPA and DHA supply is a key part of the circular economy when these materials subsequently (via animal feeds and farmed fish production) provide the well-recognised health benefits from these omega-3 fatty acids to the consumer. Recycling products that otherwise would have been discarded has enabled the industry to develop and the farming sector to provide consumers all over the world with fish, poultry and pigs fed with nutritive natural marine ingredients. 

However, there is room for more trimmings and byproducts to be included in marine ingredients. The rise of vessels becoming equipped with fishmeal plants on board shows that the Industry recognises the importance of the material that at this stage remains unused, and is taking practical steps to use it. A research project funded by IFFO and delivered by the University of Stirling showed that there is much more material available than is currently being used, considering that more than half of a fish often becomes byproduct. As aquaculture grows, there are also more opportunities for byproduct utilisation with even more volume of supply possible ultimately from processed farmed fish.