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Seafood industry trashes claims questioning fishmeal, fish oil sustainability

Report takes aim at leading British supermarket chains claiming their farmed seafood products, including salmon and prawns, are contributing to the collapse of fish stocks.

The International Fishmeal and Fish Oil Organisation (IFFO) and Scottish Salmon Producers Organisation (SSPO) have come out firing after a report by the Changing Markets Foundation (CMF) questioned the sustainability of the fishmeal and fish oil used in global aquaculture.

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The report highlights links between top UK supermarkets and illegal, unsustainable fishing operations in India, Vietnam and Gambia that supply feed ingredients for farmed seafood products in highly developed nations.

The Netherlands-based activists group highlights its mission as to "expose irresponsible corporate practices and drive change towards a more sustainable economy".

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Its researchers say supermarkets, including Tesco, Sainsbury’s, Marks & Spencer, Lidl, Aldi, Asda, Iceland, Morrison’s, Waitrose and The Co-Op, sell farmed seafood products, including salmon and prawns, which are causing fish stocks to collapse and taking a key source of protein away from some of the world’s poorest communities because of the aquaculture industry’s reliance on fishmeal and fish oil for fish feed.

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"Shoppers across the UK are totally unaware that the seafood they are buying has a dark secret," said CMF Campaign Manager Natasha Hurley. "The boom in aquaculture, to match the global demand for premium seafood products such as salmon, is fueling illegal and unsustainable fishing practices which are stripping the oceans bare."

Not the first time

It is not the first time CMF has put out a report such as this, although its tactics seemed to have shifted to naming big-name retailers and drafting in the support of well-known and respected figures from the world of television and media such as UK TV celebrity chef Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall.

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“I saw for myself while making my Fish Fight programs that fishmeal for the aquaculture industry – producing UK supermarket favorites like prawns and salmon – is being sourced in a way that is devastating to the marine environment, and to the wild fish stocks that make up much of the feed," said Fearnley-Whittingstall.

“It’s increasingly clear that even products certified as sustainably produced are based on aquaculture that is sourcing fishmeal in deeply irresponsible ways. The bottom line is that we need to stop taking wild fish out of the ocean to feed farmed fish, before it’s too late.”

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Missing the point

But IFFO says the majority of wild-caught fish is responsibly sourced and that raw material for fishmeal and fish oil comes increasingly from byproducts, with leftovers from processing currently accounting for a third of fishmeal and fish oil supplies in the market.

"Fishmeal and fish oil produced from these resources are used to provide many times more volume of edible fish through aquaculture than are consumed as raw material," IFFO Director General Petter Martin Johannessen said.

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"The small pelagic fish species that form the bulk of the fisheries dedicated to fishmeal and fish oil production are a highly productive, natural resource with no, or very limited, food markets. It is a good way to use material that would otherwise not be consumed."

Companies supplying feed to Scottish salmon farms have confirmed that none of them uses ingredients from the Gambia, Vietnam or India or from reef fishing – the main thrust of the criticism highlighted in the report, SSPO said in a statement.

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"Any claim or suggestion that Scottish feed suppliers are sourcing from these fisheries would be wrong, misleading and inaccurate," the statement said.

“Scotland’s feed suppliers will continue to ensure their ingredients are sourced from responsible and sustainable fisheries, allowing Scotland’s salmon farmers to achieve the best feed conversion ratios of any livestock, thus ensuring best use of marine resources.”

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