Interview: European Fishmeal on the marine ingredient industry


The following article was first brought in the Chinese media outlet FishFirst – November 2020 edition. The following, translated version is from IFFO (International Fishmeal and Fish Oil Organisation).

Anne Mette Baek is head of the European Fishmeal and Fish Oil Producers Association. She is also president of IFFO, the Marine Ingredients Organisation, and the executive director of Marine Ingredients Denmark. She provides below an update focusing on marine ingredients and European markets*.

This interview was first published in the Chinese media outlet FishFirst – November 2020 edition, to be downloaded in Chinese in the downloads section of this page

-Has the COVID crisis impacted the European fishmeal and oil producers so far?

Events or disruptions affecting the supply chains are reflected in the global trading of marine ingredients, whose value chain relies on a wide variety of stakeholders, from fishermen to fishmeal and fish oil producers, feed producers, retailers and certification programmes. The effects of Covid 19 across the sector have proven to affect trimmings mostly: a four month-closure of fish outlets in the United Kingdom and Ireland resulted in a reduced availability of fish trimmings.

The industry has been swift to adapt to the pandemic in order to keep providing the required volumes. Adjusted protocols have been designed and implemented with food safety as well as staff safety and welfare as key requirements. In August 2020 the landings of Northern European countries (mainly Norway and Denmark) were higher than average compared with the 2011- 2019 average for the same month.

– What are the main discussions affecting the European fishing sector in terms of regulation?

The revision of the Industrial Emissions Directive (a legislative act that sets out a goal that all countries within the European Union (EU) must achieve) is a core topic for us at EFFOP, the European Fishmeal and Fish Oil Producers Association. It consists of determining the legal framework which will apply within the European Union to industrial installations in terms of emissions regulations (air, water, dust, noise etc). Its main purpose is to create a level playing field for environmental proctection within the EU by providing guideline and documentation on the best technical, environmental, manufacturing, production, etc. techniques and methods.

In addition, the United Kingdom’s departure from the European Union on December 31st 2020 (also known as “Brexit”) has generated uncertainty, which is proving to be very critical to our industry. Negotiations are still ongoing to establish a Free Trade Agreement as well as an agreement on future relations between the United Kingdom (UK) and the European Union. Fisheries are one of the core topics to be addressed and it is hoped that an agreement will be reached on quotas and access to the fishing zones.

– How is the European fishing sector regulated?

The major European stocks used for fishmeal and fish oil are blue whiting, capelin, sprat, sand eel and Norway pout. They are used alongside trimmings from herring, mackerel, tuna whitefish as well as aquaculture species. All fish stocks sourced for fishmeal and fish oil in European countries have catch limitations. The total allowable catches (TACs) are based on biological advice and under governmental regulation and control. The principle of maximum sustainable yield (MSY) applies for TAC and quotas. It allows the management of forage fish stocks around the world by adjusting fishing pressure to achieve long term maximum sustainable yield. Biological advice on fish stocks is given by the International Council for the Exploration of the Seas (ICES). Agreements on TAC/quotas are decided:

  • Between the coastal states for the following species: blue whiting, atlanto-scandian herring, mackerel. To date (October 2020), no agreement has been reached on these species with regards to the allocation to each coastal state for the 2020/2021 period.
  • Nationally/within the European Union for capelin, sprat, sand-eel, boarfish, norway pout, herring stocks
  • In bilateral agreements between the countries
  • In international agreements within the North East Atlantic Fisheries Commission (NEAFC)

-Are there specific concerns regarding the status of key pelagic stocks in Europe?

According to the Sustainable Fisheries Partnership’s reduction fisheries report published in 2019, 88% of the fishmeal and fish oil sourced from European and Latin American reduction fisheries comes from stocks that are at least “reasonably well-managed”.

Blue whiting, Norwegian spring-spawning herring (NSSH) and NEA Mackerel are of major importance as raw material for the fishmeal and fish oil producing members of European Fishmeal both as whole fish (Blue whiting) and as trimmings (NSSH and NEA Mackerel).

-What consumption trends do the European fishmeal and fish oil producers anticipate for the forthcoming years?

Traceability is becoming a major requirement for retailers and consumers. Producers as well as certification schemes are adjusting to these requirements which, in the long term, should add value to all products.

-What are the European producers of fishmeal and fish oil particularly proud of? Is there anything specific to the European production of marine ingredients?

Today, the European industry is improving its practices with sustainability as the main driver.

The European fishmeal and fish oil industry is already leading the way in terms of sustainability, alongside Peru.

Members of the European Fishmeal and Fish Oil Producers Association work with either the Marine Stewardship Council (MSC) and MarinTrust to have the products they source and produce certified, depending on countries and species.

The focus is mainly on environmental impacts and consumption patterns, with further refining of raw materials, freshness of the fish, use of energy and water and management of waste and odours, where huge progress has been made.

– Is there a potential in Europe to increase the share of by-products that are used to produce fishmeal and fish oil?

Throughout the world, 1/3 of raw material for fish meal and fish oil comes from by-products resulting from processing of fish. This practice reflects how the circular economy can be implemented tangibly. EFFOP Members use a higher proportion of total raw materials sourced (37%) and have a very high degree of byproduct utilization with some plants operating on byproducts alone. The largest potential for an increased use of by-products lies in Asia.

 -What is the state of the demand for marine-based ingredients from the nutraceutical sector in Europe?

Fish oil is rich in long-chain omega-3 fatty acids, especially EPA and DHA, and can supplement diets inadequate in these fatty acids through farmed fish, especially oily fish such as salmonids fed on fish oil, or directly in a purified form (nutraceuticals). Aquaculture worldwide consumes 70% of the fish oil, followed by the pharmaceutical sector with 20%. In 2019, most of the growth in the omega-3 demand was concentrated in emerging economies, with dietary supplements adding the most volume, according to GOED, the global organization for EPA & DHA omega-3s.

The daily recommended intake of EPA and DHA is 0.25 to 0.50 g. Further research is being carried out especially as a way to provide treatments following the covid-19 outbreak. The pandemic has triggered an increased interest in EPA and DHA on all continents.

However, the current interpretation of the European Commission of the European regulation does not currently allow us to produce fish oil both for human consumption and for feed in the same plants. European producers have since 2016 worked to obtain acceptance from the EU Commission that existing regulation allows processing of products for human consumption and feed in the same etsablishments when seperating production in time.

-The demand for omega3s is rising. What will be required in the future to meet the demand?

Production of fishmeal and fish oil has been a steady figure for 25 years: additional sources are needed to provide the additional 25 million metric tons that will be needed by 2030 to feed the world through aquaculture. The challenge is to have enough raw materials.

As for quality, fishmeal and fish oil contain essential nutrients for aquafeeds that are beneficial to farmed fish growth, health and welfare. Those essential nutrients are found only in very limited quantities, or not at all, in other feed ingredients – other feed ingredients do not possess the nutritional profile of fishmeal and fish oil. Fishmeal is highly digestible. The high digestibility links to the superior feed conversion ratios (FCRs) that are often seen with high fishmeal inclusions. The proteins in fishmeal have excellent amino acid profiles that fit precisely the amino acid requirements for carnivorous fish species. The modern aquaculture industry would not exist in its current form without these ingredients as they meet fish nutritional requirements in a single package.

The additional ingredients that are being developed need to be used effectively alongside fishmeal and fish oil to provide optimal fish nutrition and optimal quantity for the many years to come.


* Below is a list of European countries that already have market access of aquatic products for feed purposes to China:


– Denmark

– Iceland

– Norway

– Russia