Click on the infographics below to find out the key facts about the marine ingredients industry and the vital role that it plays in farmed animal and human health.

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In brief

  • Derived from forage fish*, marine organisms such as fish, krill, shellfish and algae
  • A growing amount comes from by products: currently one third of the world’s fishmeal production
  • Three quarters of fishmeal and fish oil are used in aquaculture as aquafeed
  • Fish oil supplements are widely consumed with around 20% of the total fish oil going to this growing industry

Most common sources of marine ingredients

Small pelagic species

The small pelagic species that occupy the majority of the whole fish proportion are dominated by the Peruvian anchovy, Engraulis ringens. Peruvian anchovy provides enough raw material to account for 15-20% of the global annual production on any given year. Other important species are the Atlantic and Gulf menhaden in the US, and various sardine, sprat, mackerel, krill, and sandeel stocks around the world. 

By products

The growth in the utilisation of by products allows to use what was previous waste and develop it instead as another valuable raw material from which fishmeal and fish oil may be produced. There is scope for increased fishmeal and fish oil production from seafood by product.

Naturally high protein ingredients

Fishmeal and fish oil are obtained through cooking, pressing drying and milling fresh raw fish and/or food fish trimmings.

Fishmeal contains typically 60% to 72% protein, 10% to 20% ash and 5% to 12% fat, which is high in the health promoting omega-3 very long chain polyunsaturated fatty acids EPA and DHA, often referred to as 'omega-3s'.

Fish oil supplements: EPA and DHA have significant health benefits especially for heart conditions, arthritis and diabetes. It is also an essential supplement for pregnant women as these fatty acids are key to foetal brain development.

* Forage fish are also known as Small Pelagic fish species. They come from low trophic level fisheries and refer to fast-growing, early-maturing and highly productive species.

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Foundation of formulated feed

Fishmeal and fish oil are the foundation of formulated feeds and, because of the superior nutrition that they provide, are regarded as the nutritional benchmark for other ingredients. The production rates for both ingredients has remained steady for over the past 25 years indicating stability in supply (and consequently no additional pressure on fisheries despite continual aquaculture growth). There is growth in the utilisation of by-products as raw material, but the availability is not enough to match the growth of aquaculture. Aquaculture itself will also provide additional byproduct for fishmeal and fish oil production in the future.  Additional ingredients are being developed alongside fishmeal and fish oil to provide optimal fish nutrition and ensure the continued growth of the aquaculture industry.

Essential for fish nutrition

Fishmeal is a balanced, highly digestible and palatable feed ingredient which is used at strategic stages of the production cycle of fish in support of growth and health.  It offers a range of important nutrients for farmed fish, including:

  • Protein for growth – fishmeal is among the best available ingredients for protein, with an abundance of amino acids that fit precisely the requirements for all fish species
  • Long chain omega-3’s (EPA & DHA) - Richer source than any other feed ingredient, barring fish oil itself (fishmeal usually contains 8-12% of fish oil), which is essential for overall good health and optimal growth
  • Minerals - An excellent source of a number of nutritionally important minerals, including calcium and phosphorus (aids bone formation), magnesium, potassium, and selenium
  • Vitamins – rich in vitamins, such as vitamin A (immune system), vitamin D (aids mineral absorption and bone health), vitamin E (nerve function), vitamin K (blood clotting), as well as vitamins such as B1, B2, B6 and B12
  • Additional unique compounds which have been linked to superior performance, and palatability, include taurine, trimethylamine oxide, nucleotides and glycosaminoglycans

Fish oil is an essential component of a healthy and balanced diet for farmed fish.  Just as they provide health benefits to humans, so do they provide health advantages for farmed fish. The benefits of using fish oil include:

  • Dietary source of energy and essential for overall good health and optimal growth
  • Long chain omega-3 fatty acids such as EPA and DHA support physiological processes including cellular signalling, membrane function and hormone precursors
  • Greatly enhances palatability of the feed – which is vital at the early stages of growth
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Marine ingredients provide essential nutrients for human health, indirectly through the farmed animals that we eat and directly through the consumption of fish oil capsules. Just as fishmeal and fish oil play a vital role in the growth and health of farmed fish, these essential proteins, fats, minerals and vitamins are then passed onto humans. For humans, fish provides energy and is a superior source of protein to other animal source foods in terms of total protein and essential amino acid content and digestibility. Among other nutrients, farmed fish are a rich source of vitamin D and calcium (bone and muscle health), vitamin B12 (aids metabolism), Zinc and Selenium (aids immune system).

The other key nutrient for human health in marine ingredients are the long chain omega-3s (EPA and DHA), which are crucial for the health and growth of the farmed animals and in turn pass on the significant health benefits to us. Fish oil supplements are widely consumed with around 20% of the total fish oil produced in 2018 going to this growing industry. It is recommended that healthy adults consume a minimum of 250–500 mg combined EPA and DHA each day as part of a healthy diet. The benefits of consuming EPA and DHA are well known and include:

  • Heart health – Omega-3s have been shown to help maintain healthy blood pressure and healthy triglyceride levels and may reduce Coronary Heart Disease (CHD).
  • Neurological Health - DHA is the most abundant omega-3 fatty acid in the brain and needs to replenish the supply to function optimally.
  • Eye health - DHA is found in large amounts in the retina of the eye, the part of the eye responsible for seeing under different lighting conditions.
  • Prenatal health - Omega-3s play an important role in brain and eye development for a growing baby, both during pregnancy and in the first months of life.

Source: Omega-3 health benefits - https://alwaysomega3s.com/

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The marine ingredients industry has a complex but well known supply chain with a well-developed series of certification and improvement schemes. With the wealth of data and information extending over many years, the industry can ensure the continued production of high quality feed and nutraceutical ingredients.  

Starting with the fish, the industry works hard to ensure that the fisheries themselves continue to produce a maximum sustainable yield while protecting the wider marine ecosystem through effective fishery management. This fishery management is based on well-recognised principles that have a strong evidence-base, such as for example the FAO’s Code of Conduct for Responsible Fisheries (CCRF). To underpin responsible sourcing, there are a series of certification schemes (e.g. IFFO RS, MSC), that provide confidence through the provision of independently audited schemes on fisheries performance. Over 50% of the worlds' combined production of marine ingredients is now certified to the IFFO RS standard and this number will continue to rise. In areas where certification can’t yet be achieved, Fishery Improvement Projects (FIPs) are set up to help fisheries work towards sustainability and start the process towards further certification.

Once at the plant, certification schemes ensure that this vital resource retains its inherent high quality and that it is correctly utilised through the production process. For shipping and storage, the high quality is maintained through the use of antioxidants, ensuring the full health value of the long chain omega-3 fatty acids (EPA & DHA) are provided to the consumer through the incorporation into compound feeds or directly through fish oil capsules. Plants that have yet to achieve certification can start the process through The IFFO RS Improver Programme (IP).

More information:

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Marine ingredients provide unrivalled and essential nutrients to farmed seafood, most importantly in early stages of growth. The sources of marine ingredients are often from fish that don’t have a strong food market and this valuable resource can instead be processed in fishmeal and fish oil to further contribute to global protein production, food security and farmed animal and human health. Traditionally fishmeal and fish oil provided the foundation of aquafeed, but due to the finite supply of this essential resource, they are now used strategically to ensure the continued health of the fish.

In 2018, an estimated 75% of fishmeal and 73% fish oil produced went to aquaculture. For the raw material, 1kg of fish through the use of aquaculture produces over 4.5kg of farmed seafood. When comparing processed products, 3.5 million tonnes of fishmeal and 700,000 tonnes of fish oil, produces more than 44 million tonnes of fed farmed seafood with the benefit of the additional predominantly plant-based ingredient supply. This equates to an incredible multiplier effect of producing more than 10 times their volume in farmed seafood, illustrating the true importance of fishmeal and fish oil to global farmed seafood production.

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Marine ingredients play a vital role within the global food supply chain, with the majority coming from forage fish, that have a very limited direct food market, and by-products, trimmings from processed fish. Forage fish, such as Peruvian Anchovy, tend to be fragile fish that deteriorate quickly and therefore have limited storage and transport options for the food market. They tend to have a distinct strong flavour making them relatively unpalatable in comparison to other local fish and are therefore consumed in comparatively small quantities. Once processed into fishmeal and fish oil, they can be used strategically in aquatic diets to produce many more times the volume of more widely accepted and consumed fish and other animal protein in a very efficient way. The volume of production of fishmeal and fish oil from Peruvian anchovy is equivalent to the requirement of 50% of the world’s fed farmed fish production, thereby having a significant positive impact on global food security.

However, with a finite supply of forage fish, the increasing use of by-products is providing an essential additional raw material source that through the production of fishmeal and fish oil supports the increased volume of feed required for the fast growing aquaculture industry. By-products are the trimmings of fish from processing for direct human consumption, for example heads, frames, skin and tails. This material may constitute up to 70% of fish and shellfish after processing (fish fillet yield is species-dependent and is often in the range of 30 -50% of the fish). The main source of the by-product is from finfish such as white fish trimmings (pollock, cod, hake, haddock and others) as well as salmon (wild and from aquaculture), tuna, herring, mackerel and can come from wild caught fish or aquaculture processing. This is a valuable raw material which would otherwise be unused, incurring both economic and environmental costs for disposal. As a raw material source, this material is still underutilised and it is calculated that currently around 33% of global fishmeal production and 26% of global fish oil production comes from by-product. It is estimated that globally there are an additional 11.7 million tonnes of by-product produced in processing plants that are not collected for the production of marine ingredients, although there are practical issues around the collection of some of this material. Fishmeal production is in fact expected to grow over the next 10 years as a result of increased by-product availability, especially from aquaculture, whereas fish oil production is estimated to increase by only around 5-10% over the same period. Developing and optimising the collection and processing of this valuable source of raw material should be encouraged as much as possible.

Source: Jackson and Newton, 2016

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Marine ingredients play an essential role in global food security, consumed either by the animals that we eat or through fish oil capsules (health food supplements and pharmaceuticals).

The raw material of marine ingredients comes from natural resources.

The production process for fishmeal and fish oil only removes water, and is conducted through processes that after decades of innovation are directed towards protecting the full nutritional qualities of the materials. 

In feed, fishmeal and fish oil are a balanced, highly digestible and palatable feed ingredient, which are used at strategic stages of the production cycle of animal in support of growth and health. The properties found in fishmeal and fish oil provide key health benefits to the farmed animals, such as optimal immune system function. While fishmeal and fish oil remain the foundation of aquafeed and continue to be an essential ingredient, the finite supply of these ingredients has led to the increasing use of additional raw materials (soya, wheat and land animal proteins). With the aquaculture industry expected to continue to grow to meet future nutritional needs, both marine ingredients and additional raw materials (including algal products, microbial proteins, insect meal) will be needed to meet this growing demand.

Direct use of fish oil in human foods and capsules is an increasingly significant outlet – the so-called ‘nutraceuticals’. The daily recommended intake of long-chain omega-3 fatty acids, especially EPA and DHA, of 250 to 500 mg can then be met through fish oil supplements.

The infographic displayed above is the first of a series that was developed with On-idle.