Aquaculture Advisory Council Presents Circular Fish Feed Recommendation to the European Commission: Fishmeals important role in future feeds


Fishmeal and fish oil have long served as cornerstone ingredients in aquafeeds, occupying a prominent position as well-established and widely recognized feed components. These ingredients play a vital role by providing essential nutrients that far surpass the nutritional value offered by alternative feed options. They have effectively set the standard against which the performance of other feed components is measured. What is remarkable is the inherent stability observed in the global supply of fishmeal over the past two decades. This remarkable consistency can be attributed to various factors, including advancements in the collection and processing of materials from capture fisheries. However, a significant driver of fishmeal’s availability nowadays is the increased utilization of by-products derived from the seafood industry. In fact, the International Fishmeal and Fish Oil Organization (IFFO) has calculated that approximately 31% of the world’s marine ingredients production currently originates from by-products. This translates to about 6-8 million tonnes of raw materials being processed to yield approximately 2 million tonnes of marine ingredients. As global supply and logistics chains align, this figure is expected to rise.  Meanwhile, the aquaculture industry has continued its unabated growth, becoming crucial to strategically optimize the allocation of fishmeal’s nutritional attributes. The global annual supply of fishmeal remains finite and unchanging. In order to further enhance circularity and maximize the utilization of this invaluable resource, it is imperative for the industry to embrace sustainable practices, particularly by tapping into the potential of fishmeal derived from by-products.

Recognizing the importance of circularity in the aquaculture industry, the Aquaculture Advisory Council has released recommendations to the EU Commission. These recommendations align with the European Commission’s Farm to Fork strategy, emphasizing the use of alternative feed ingredients and reducing the environmental footprint of animal products. The council underscores the significance of circularity and the integration of secondary raw materials in feed production. These recommendations aim to enhance feed security, reduce dependence on imports, and promote sustainable practices in fish farming.

Importance of Circular Feed

Circular feed plays a crucial role in countering linear resource depletion and utilizing secondary raw materials. The concept involves generating animal-origin food by using nutrients that would otherwise go to waste or are not directly consumed by humans. Although still being defined, circular feed has been practiced in the aquafeed industry for decades, recovering secondary raw materials from the circular economy. A provisional definition of circular feed includes non-food-grade ingredients recovered from the local circular economy, with a small land use footprint. Several components contribute to the circularity metric, such as food/feed grade status, proximity to the feed mill, land use ratio, forage fish dependency ratio (FFDR), and nutrient digestibility.

Recommendations to Policymakers

The Aquaculture Advisory Council proposes recommendations to policymakers to support and facilitate the adoption of circular feed practices. These recommendations include designing a political framework that prioritizes the use of bioeconomy resources as feed for food-producing animals, selecting indicators to measure feed circularity within sustainability development frameworks, establishing specific requirements for operations to ensure feed safety, identifying and addressing bottlenecks that hinder circularity, and supporting research into circular feed definitions and methodologies. Policymakers are also encouraged to promote aquaculture production systems based on circular feed among citizens and consumers.

Recommendations to Operators

The council urges operators in the aquaculture chain to integrate circular feed thinking into their activities. Operators should aim to reduce the environmental impact of feed production, minimize nutrient losses during feed use, and set sector-level feed circularity targets. Procedures should be implemented to mitigate fraud risks associated with circular feed practices. Feed ingredient suppliers are advised to prioritize feed as the destination for nutrient resources, ensuring feed safety and quality. Operators in the circular feed chain must maintain transparency in operations and meet safety standards. Feed manufacturers should optimize nutrient efficiency and minimize environmental losses. Fish farming operators should prioritize the use of circular feed and consider fish species adapted to lower nutrient concentrations. Downstream participants must account for potential additional feeding costs resulting from increased feed circularity

In summary: The adoption of circular feed practices in the aquaculture industry is crucial for promoting sustainability. Implementing the recommendations outlined by the Aquaculture Advisory Council for policymakers and operators can reduce environmental impact, enhance feed security, and contribute to a more sustainable food system. By embracing circularity principles in fishmeal production and utilization, waste can be minimized, and resource utilization can be optimized. The growth potential of the fishmeal sector through circularity practices is significant, offering vast opportunities for sustainable growth and resource optimization. By recognizing the valuable potential of by-products as a source for fishmeal production, the industry can contribute to a more sustainable and efficient future for the aquaculture sector. While other circular sources, such as single-cell proteins or insects, may have growth potential in the tens of thousands of tonnes, the fishmeal sector has the capacity to increase growth on the scale of millions of tonnes. This indicates the vast opportunities for sustainable growth and resource optimization that can be realized through circularity practices in fishmeal production.

Read the Aquaculture Advisory Council recommendations here.