Brussels - European aquaculture cannot be considered “sustainable” until the use of poorly managed and/or overexploited marine ingredients in the diets of European farmed fish is replaced by ecologically responsible marine and alternative non-marine ingredients. Seas At Risk’s new policy paper outlines urgent and longer term actions to be taken by the EU on the issue of feed.

In the EU, the Common Fisheries Policy and the Blue Growth strategy aim to promote sustainable aquaculture growth. However, it is imperative that increased production does not result in any further overfishing to provide these marine feed ingredients. Proper safeguards and traceability needs to be established to ensure that growth in aquaculture does not jeopardise the objective of ending overfishing in the Common Fisheries Policy, nor lead to the overexploitation of other, non-EU fisheries that currently provide marine proteins and oils for feed.

A key target should be to ensure that all species farmed provide a net gain in fish protein. Aquaculture can only fill the fish gap if it does not remove more wild fish from the oceans for feed requirements than it produces. This is already the case for many species such as carp and tilapia, whose need for fishmeal and fish oil is low. Progress is also being made to achieve this for other, more popular carnivorous species such as Atlantic salmon.

Solutions

However, if we are to maximise the benefits of using wild capture marine proteins and oils in feed, their inclusion must be as a strategic ingredient to deliver health benefits, rather than as the predominant source of protein. It is equally imperative that an ecologically sustainable source of aquaculture feed is developed and utilised rather than unsustainable, poorly managed or discarded fish, vegetable proteins and oils, or GM technology that is associated with a high environmental cost or whose impacts are unknown. The use of ecologically sustainable marine proteins and oils; by-products and trimmings; land animal proteins and innovative solutions such as insect meal and microalgae provide a good platform from which European aquaculture can develop whilst ensuring environmental stewardship and NGO support.

Seas at Risk would like to see, as a starting point, all European aquaculture feed sourced from responsible suppliers such as those certified by International Fishmeal and Fish Oil Organisation Responsible Supply (IFFO RS). Whilst we appreciate that this a long term objective for imported products, particularly from Asia, we support progress towards this certification via the IFFO Improvers Programme and other initiatives, such as those being undertaken by the Food and Agriculture Organisation and partner organisations. As a longer term goal we want feed fisheries independently certified by a credible and independent environmental and social certification scheme (such as e.g. the Marine Stewardship Council’s), as well as full use of by-products and trimmings and partial replacement of marine proteins and oils with non-marine alternatives.

The European aquaculture industry and European policy makers, including the EU’s Aquaculture Advisory Council, should set clear targets and commitments relating to the sourcing of responsible and ultimately ecologically sustainable fishmeal and fish oil. Without the realisation of these targets, Seas At Risk believes it is unacceptable to claim sustainability for EU aquaculture products.

Seas At Risk would like to thank our member Marine Conservation Society in particular for their assistance with this paper.

Aquaculture feed paper

This policy paper is a follow-up from the joint NGO position paper Priorities for Environmentally Responsible Aquaculture in EU.

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