Day 1 of the IFFO October Webinar looked at how the marine ingredients industry approaches to sustainability. Presenters and panellists agreed that value-chain collaboration is vital to ensure traceability and nutritious proteins for a growing population.
Predictability in terms of quantity and quality
Anne Mette Baek, who has been President of IFFO for a year, recognised that in this turbulent time the marine ingredients industry had been swift to adapt to the pandemic. Adjusted protocols have been designed and implemented by marine ingredients producers worldwide when the pandemic hit.
She underlined that predictability in terms of both quantity and quality is one of the industry’s key assets, explaining that the FAO keeps referring to marine ingredients as “strategic ingredients”.
Baek argued that constant efforts towards more sustainability explain the industry’s resilience: “The circular economy started being a pillar of the industry’s mindset long time before it became a mainstream concept. Already one third of marine ingredients are produced from by-products which otherwise would have been discarded. There’s a lot of potential to go further, and by-products are one of the keys for the marine ingredients industry to keep supporting the growth of the aquaculture sector” she said.
Sustainability fuels credibility
The IFFO Board has a clear ambition to support further efforts to champion responsible practices and certification credentials are central. Ten years ago, a certification programme dedicated to the responsible supply of marine ingredients was created (IFFO RS, now MarinTrust) by the industry. The industry can now claim more than 50% of all marine ingredients certified. “IFFO’s voice is listened to in international organisations such as the UN’s FAO and associated committees, the International Maritime Organisation, as well as academic networks” Baek argued, adding that IFFO “owes this credibility to its members, who represent over 55% of world production and 75% of the fishmeal and fish oil traded worldwide”.
Looking ahead, IFFO wants to raise the bar for IFFO’s membership and select all its projects through the prism of their contribution to the United Nation’s Sustainable Development Goals and a better understanding of the industry’s environmental, social and economic impacts.
Feeding a growing population
According to IFFO’s Director General, Petter Johannessen, further research is needed to understand the impacts of all food production systems so that food is produced sustainably. All efforts are needed to address the challenge of feeding a growing population and reducing the number of undernourished people. The FAO estimates they may well exceed 840 million by 2030.
In order to support the growth of the aquaculture sector, more than 25 million tons of new raw materials with the right nutritional values are needed by 2030. “It is not time for controversies” he said. “It is time to seek a consensus on where challenges lie and agree that all sustainable solutions are welcomed”.
What is the Marine Ingredients industry’s future made of?
According to Johannessen, the industry’s responsibility is threefold: marine ingredients must be responsibly sourced and produced. This will be made possible by carrying an emphasis on improving the management of fisheries. Fishery science has proved efficient in driving positive change. Trends in abundance are increasing in fisheries around the world, on average, for stocks that are scientifically assessed. And last but not least, a value chain approach is needed. “At a time when Covid-19 has brought a formidable reshuffle of the state of the world, there is increasing evidence that any strategies should be underpinned by the best evidence and research. The main challenge for all stakeholders from the value chain should be food safety and the need for sustainable growth. I feel that this is being increasingly recognised” Johannessen stated.
Adaptation is key to the future of the global food production system
The ensuing panel discussion was moderated by Drew Cherry, IntraFish’s Editor in Chief and featured representatives of the value chain. A core concept was adaptation and how the industry will face upcoming challenges.
The panelists agreed that adaptation is needed to tackle challenges related to climate change. “We need institutions that can adapt to change; currently, the fish are adapting quicker than the management systems in place” stated Manuel Barange, Director, Fisheries and Aquaculture at the FAO. This was echoed by Ray Hilborn, Professor at the University of Washington, and Dave Martin, Deputy Division Director of SFP, who stressed that even if they are well managed, the fisheries do fluctuate naturally, more than traditional fish stocks. Conclusions shouldn’t be drawn too quickly in terms of fish stocks and potential switches to non-marine materials: “Environmental trade-offs should be considered carefully” said Dave Martin.
With a broad range of species available to meet different needs, Melanie Siggs from the Global Aquaculture Alliance, argued there is a need to determine how to continue harvesting sustainably and where harvests should go for best footprint and nutrition. This was echoed by Mads Martinsen, Skrettings’ Director Product Development (Norway), who emphasized the need for flexibility and independence in terms of ingredients sourcing in order to adapt to resource availability. Mads Martinsen underlined that Skretting Norway will continue to use the same amount of marine ingredients in the future, provided certified as responsibly sourced. As a matter of fact, the use of marine ingredients has been stable for years, but inclusion level has been reduced due to increase in total volume of feed produced.
As all continents, apart from Africa, are expected to see a per capita increase of fish consumption by 2030, there is a clear need to ensure good management of stocks as well as equal distribution and quality of seafood products. By-products were raised by Libby Woodhatch, Executive Chair of MarinTrust, as a promising area of growth for the industry, calling for them to no longer be identified as a waste but instead an important resource. “Marine ingredients are a blind spot in the value chain because they are not consumer facing, but it is our role at MarinTrust to provide the information regarding impacts and traceability” she said.
Dialogue with all stakeholders
Engagement with governments was also mentioned as being critical. The case of the NE Atlantic blue whiting fisheries was mentioned during the panel discussion. Anne Mette Baek, IFFO's President and head of the European Fishmeal and Fish oil Producers Association, argued that an industry led coalition had gathered to address the consequences resulting from disputes between European coastal states but political commitment is critical to move forward.
Reputation of the industry
Focusing on the marine ingredients industry’s reputation, right after the panel discussion, Veronique Jamin, IFFO’s Communications and External relations Director, stressed that the topics that the industry is dealing with are high-reaching, complex and often highly political. 38% of seafood enter international trade according to the FAO and marine ingredients are traded internationally. The value chain is complex and although fishmeal and fish oil are not known to a wide audience because they are not for direct human consumption, consumer preferences can impact the marine ingredients industry.
In the discussions surrounding the status of fish stocks and the main existing challenges, European countries and the US have been driving significant volumes of discussion in the media in 2019 and 2020. The scope is wide and the main narrative is dedicated to theory and exchange of views.
“Whereas it is difficult to find research papers differentiating between fish species in terms of fish stocks, we have learnt from our news analysis that pelagic species are not the main focus of attention when it comes to looking at fish stocks and existing challenges” she said.
How can sustainability of feed be communicated?
Science based information has been disseminated worldwide through high reaching news outlets and it is increasingly acknowledged in mainstream media that sustainable fisheries are beneficial for fish populations, the environment and people.
IFFO has long been a go-to resource when it comes to fish nutrition, fishery management and trade and use of marine ingredients. IFFO doesn’t shy away from the conversation and proactively engages with all stakeholders.