Global aquaculture production has increased rapidly over recent years and now a greater tonnage comes from farms than from wild caught sources. However, this rapid increase has resulted in widespread concerns, not only about the safety and purity of the resulting products, but also about the effect the farming activity might be having on the environment. These environmental concerns are not only around the effect that the farm might be having on its immediate surroundings, but also concerning the effect any inputs, such as feed and feed ingredients, might be having on the wider environment. Consumers of aquaculture products increasingly want reassurance that when they buy farmed fish and crustaceans they are not contributing to the destruction of the aquatic environment.
Fishmeal and fish oil (marine ingredients) are widely used in the diets of farmed fish and crustaceans, as they have unique nutritional properties that promote rapid and healthy growth. However, because of the recent increase in aquaculture and the rising demand for marine ingredients for use in pelleted feeds, there is concern that aquaculture is contributing to the over-exploitation of fishing stocks for reduction purposes.
Increasingly the market for food derived from aquaculture is demanding that the marine ingredients (most notably, fishmeal and fish oil) used in on-farm feeds, come from responsible sources. This means that the fisheries raw material used in the production of the marine ingredients should come from a well-run factory with full traceability back to the originating fishery. The fisheries in question, particularly for any whole-fish used, must be able to demonstrate that they are responsibly managed. The most widely accepted scheme used to demonstrate responsible marine ingredients, is the independently governed IFFO Responsible Supply standard (IFFO RS).
Over 40% of the world’s supply of marine ingredients currently meets the IFFO RS standard and comes from certified factories which source their raw material from responsible sources, as defined by the standard and have been third-party audited to prove compliance. Unfortunately, there are only very limited sources of IFFO RS material currently being produced in Asia which can be used by the growing Asian aquaculture industry. Part of the problem stems from the nature of Asian fisheries, many of which are multi-species fisheries for which there are only limited amounts of data available.
Current tools for the evaluation of the fisheries such as the Marine Stewardship Council’s (MSC) fisheries standard and the current fisheries assessment for IFFO RS, are based on the 1996 FAO Code of Conduct for Responsible Fishing. This code can only be easily applied to limited species fisheries for which there is a lot of data on stock status and fishing effort. IFFO RS, as part of a new second version of its standard, is working on adopting the Asia Pacific Fisheries Commission’s (APFIC) recently published guidelines for the management of tropical trawl fisheries. These guidelines advocate the use of risk based assessment techniques which once incorporated into IFFO RS should make it easier for Asian fisheries to demonstrate compliance to the fisheries assessment for responsible raw material. For those factories and associated fisheries that cannot currently demonstrate compliance, an Improvers’ Programme (IP) has been launched by IFFO RS, that using the mechanism of a credible Fisheries Improvement Project (FIP), they can gain market recognition that they are working towards achieving full IFFO RS compliance within a few years.
Another important consideration for a fishmeal plant is whether the recognition by IFFO RS would also assist their customers and their customers’ customers to achieve certification to consumer-facing aquaculture eco-labels. The two most commonly recognised aquaculture eco-label standards are those produced by the Global Aquaculture Alliance called Best Aquaculture Practice (BAP) and those from the Aquaculture Stewardship Council (ASC).
The BAP Feed Mill standard states: …for fishmeal and fish oil derived from reduction fisheries, at least 50% (calculation based on mass balance) shall come from sources that are certified by the Marine Stewardship Council (MSC) or to the International Fishmeal and Fish Oil Organisation Responsible Supply (IFFO RS) standards. Alternatively, where MSC- or IFFO RS-certified fishmeal and fish oil are not produced nationally, the above minimum percentage can comprise material from active approved improvers programs as verified by IFFO, the Sustainable Fisheries Partnership and WWF.
The ASC Feed Standard is currently under development but is due to be launched in late 2017. Drafts which have gone out for public consultation have made reference to IFFO RS and IFFO RS Improvers Programme being acceptable as an entry level for the fisheries whilst MSC remains the long-term goal. In addition it was suggested that fishmeal factories will be required to have Good Manufacturing Practice standards in place with full traceability from the fishery to the finished marine ingredient. These requirements are met by the current IFFO RS standard, so that a factory which is certified to the RS standard would meet the factory elements of the ASC Feed Standard.
So in conclusion there is a growing need for aquaculture enterprises to be able to demonstrate responsible practices. One important area coming under increasing scrutiny, is the source of any marine ingredients used in the compound feed. The easiest method to demonstrate responsible sourcing of marine ingredients is to purchase ingredients which have been approved under the IFFO RS standard. This standard requires a factory to demonstrate responsible production and responsible raw material sourcing from well managed fisheries. Provision is also being developed to allow improving fisheries to get their efforts recognised and not only single species fisheries but also more complicated mixed fisheries. It is intended that using these tools aquaculture producers can demonstrate the efforts they are making to produce safe and sustainable food which should allow them to sell into even the most discerning markets.
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