Adjusting to the marine ingredients industry’s emerging challenges: why certification standards are needed

This article was published in Frontline of Fisheries (May 2020 issue) - China

Certification rewards compliance for the sourcing and production in accordance with internationally recognised standards and brings trust and credibility throughout the value chain, hence protecting the reputation of a brand. As fishmeal and fish oil are the foundation of formulated feeds and the nutritional benchmark for other ingredients, responsible sourcing is instrumental. It is vital that fishmeal and fish oil remain a relevant ingredient in feed since they are contributing – mainly through aquaculture but also through poultry and piglet production - to feeding a growing population in need of protein.

Allowing producers of marine ingredients to be accountable

IFFO RS is the leading standard in the certification of marine ingredients. It was originally founded in 2009 by IFFO, the trade body that represents the marine ingredients industry worldwide, driven by the desire of the marine ingredient sector to provide assurances for the value chain with respect to traceability and sustainability.  It is a separate entity to IFFO, with a separate budget, governance structure and purpose. Since the first fishmeal plant was IFFO RS certified in 2010, the IFFO RS scheme has grown tremendously and now certifies more than half of the fishmeal and fish oil produced worldwide. Over 150 plants in more than 20 different countries have gained the IFFO RS certification.

The unit of certification is the fishmeal plant. Factories are audited (full audit year 1, surveillance audits years 2 and 3) so that the IFFO RS Standard Certificate lasts 3 years given compliance to all IFFO RS Standard requirements. IFFO RS works with third party accredited (ISO 17065) certification bodies which independently and scientifically assess fisheries against criteria that follows the key principles of the UN FAO Code of Conduct for Responsible Fisheries. IFFO RS’ governing principles ensure that representatives from marine ingredients producers, traders, fish feed producers, fish farmers, fish processors, retailers, marine conservation organisations and related standards sit on IFFO RS’ Governing Body Committee to oversee the development and direction of the standard.

IFFO RS is recognised and endorsed throughout the marine ingredient value chain and by aquaculture certification programmes including BAP, ASC and Global GAP, as well as feed manufacturers, retailers and pet food manufacturers. Credibility is assured through ISEAL membership, which gives reassurance to the value chain that the standard has been developed using a globally recognised framework and that it also complies with ISEAL’s codes of good practice related to assurance, impacts assessment and monitoring.

IFFO RS has become MarinTrust

The IFFO RS standards have been constantly evolving to ensure they remain fit for purpose as credible global standards. This dynamic approach had to be reflected in the name of the Global Standard for Responsible Supply. From now on it will be known as MarinTrust.

As Francisco Aldon, MarinTrust Chief Executive Officer, puts it: “This new name underpins a continuous ambition to grow and tackle the existing challenges. MarinTrust’s vision is to make marine ingredients recognised as the best and most important source of animal and human nutrition. Its ambition is that 75% of all marine ingredients are MarinTrust certified by 2025.”

Expanding in China

China has strict requirements when it comes to safety and traceability of domestic and imported fishmeal. Furthermore, China’s larger retailers have increasing expectations that seafood carries third-party certification to prove responsible and sustainable supply. It is therefore not a surprise that there are interests in Asia for the MarinTrust certification. Although no fishmeal plant has been certified yet, five Chinese companies have already obtained the MarinTrust chain of custody certification for imported certified fishmeal and fish oil. The chain of custody ensures the traceability and integrity of these products and also prevents counterfeiting and substandard behaviour. Companies can apply for certification or take more time to improve their production environment by joining the MarinTrust Improver Programme to achieve all formal certification milestones.

MarinTrust works hand in hand with IFFO to gain a better knowledge of Chinese users’ expectations and to connect with local fishmeal and fish oil producers. Together, IFFO and MarinTrust will hold a seminar in China in December 2020 to make detailed introductions to fishmeal and feed companies.

Working with complex fisheries and bringing trust and credibility to them

In 2018 the certification standard launched a multispecies criteria to be tested during the next 3 years with relevant fisheries such as mixed trawl fisheries in South East Asia. During this period, the pilot will work as a part of the MarinTrust Improver Programme. The objective of the multispecies pilot is to enable the assessment of highly complex fisheries in which sometimes hundreds of species are regularly caught. Over time this pilot will work towards full MarinTrust approval. The pilots are not specific to Asia.

Addressing social and ethical issues

It is crucial that social and ethical issues are addressed. Standards are a baseline and critical tool in demonstrating best practices and mitigating risks; as such, they can strongly support governments in regulations and law enforcement. The MarinTrust standard aims to help certificate holders demonstrate that they comply with fundamental social regulations of the land where they operate and with ILO (International Labour Organisation) conventions.


As a conclusion, there is no doubt that China will keep on regarding food safety as a top priority, with the protection of the consumer’s health very high on the agenda. At the same time, China is expected to continue to import vast quantities of marine ingredients and consumers need reassurance on their sourcing. MarinTrust should be regarded as a trustworthy partner for Chinese companies willing to showcase their responsible raw material sourcing and production processes.