Ecologist Film Unit: Feed for Greed

| 4th December 2008
Responses from some of the key players to the Ecologist's investigation into fish feed.

Our questions...

As part of a story looking at fish meal / oil production, frequently used in aquaculture feed, the Ecologist Film Unit (EFU)  recently travelled to Peru and Chile. Campaigners in the region, notably from the the Chimbote-based Natura group, along with other NGOs, medical professionals, biologists and local fishers associations, claim that fish meal production across Peru is associated with a number of environmental and social "costs", chiefly;

1, That effluents from fish meal processing plants are responsible for contaminating the ocean, contributing in some cases to the creation of so-called marine "dead zones"

2, That air-bourne pollution from fish meal plants is responsible for a host of documented health problems for communities living near to such plants

3, That overfishing and the activities - sometimes in breach of official regulations - of industrial anchovy fleets are contributing to reduced artisanal fishing catches, with a knock on implication for regional food security (and employment)

4, That wildlife in the region, including coastal bird populations and sea lions, are suffering directly or indirectly because of a reduction of fish (food) resources, and associated conflicts with people over those dwindling food resources

5, That anchovy harvesting and fish meal processing chiefly for export and use in aquaculture feed is - overall - highly unsustainable and undermining regional food security

As much Peruvian fishmeal appears to be used to feed salmon on sale in the UK (and across the EU), we are seeking responses to these claims from companies involved in the business, including feed suppliers, salmon farmers and retailers...

The answers received...


Looking at your questions we believe this would be best answered by the fishmeal suppliers directly or IFFO. I know that my colleague, who is at the Salmon Aquaculture Dialogue, also have talked to a representative from your company about this today. Our purchasing policy and routines when it comes to marine raw materials are: All suppliers of marine products must document that fish used to produce fishmeal and oil have been responsibly sourced, without depleting fish stocks or damaging the wider marine environment. Specific criteria which are part of our regular supplier audits are:

1. Fisheries regulated by official management controls and total catch limits
2. Official management controls must be based on scientific monitoring and assessment
3. Each delivery of marine products must be accompanied by documentation stating the fish species used in the manufacturing of the product
4. Marine products have not been produced from endangered fish species

Further information about this subject can be found on:


Marine Harvest

As I am sure you understand, Marine Harvest is in this industry for the long term. The only way we can maximize the value for our shareholders is to ensure that we operate on a sustainable basis. This is why Marine Harvest takes all aspects related to sustainability very seriously. As you might know, fish farming is one of the most resource-efficient ways of utilizing feed for the production of animal protein. The global salmon feed production use less than 25% of the global fish meal production, so it might be relevant to your project to evaluate other industries’ approach to this challenge as well. Our approach is to work closely with our feed suppliers who set high standards for their sustainability and continuously work to increase it. Marine Harvest's feed suppliers have programs for sustainability including routines related to the purchase of sustainable raw materials. Some of the points raised in your e-mail are addressing issues related to a part of the value chain not covered by our company. We therefore suggest that these detailed questions are discussed with, and best answered by, the feed and feed raw material producers. We are confident that you understand our position.

Foodvest (Youngs Seafood)

Foodvest (parent company in the UK to Young’s Seafood and The Seafood Company) is a major buyer of farmed salmon. Because we take an active interest in the way this salmon is produced we are an associate member of IFFO, the International Fishmeal and Fish Oil Association. As such, we support IFFO’s current position regarding the protection and management of the Peruvian anchovy fishery.

Our business intends always to purchase fish only from suppliers who apply the very best and most modern production practices, coupled with appropriate care for the natural environment. In this we are guided by our Fish for Life policy concerning the responsible sourcing of seafood (which can be reviewed via the website In accordance with the aims of Fish for Life we take a proactive approach to the protection and management of marine resources and therefore will continue to hold this particular situation under review. Where we see opportunities for our business to contribute actively to positive change we will do so.


Sainsbury’s is committed to sustainable and responsible sourcing of all its products and this also applies to aquaculture feed ingredients. Our salmon feedstuffs working group meets regularly to discuss issues relevant to the sustainability of feed ingredients and to date we have been satisfied with the data and control measures relating to the management of this fishery. We will however invite comment from IFFO on this specific issue at our next meeting.

International Fishmeal and Fishoil Organisation


The protection and management of the Peruvian anchovy fishery, the world’s largest of any type, is well established, based on science and the envy of fisheries across the globe.

Regulation and protection by the Peruvian government is based on advice from the Peruvian Marine Institute, which carries out extensive acoustic surveys of the stocks themselves whilst also collaborating with scientists worldwide to monitor climate and other factors impacting on the fish and marine environment - including seabirds and marine mammals.

The measures to protect stocks imposed on the main commercial fleet include: annual and seasonal quota based on stock health, a closed period during the spawning season from January to March, only licensed vessels permitted to fish, minimum net size and stopping fishing if too many young fish are caught. There are extensive controls to ensure these rules are obeyed including verification of landings at all ports by an independent surveillance organisation and satellite tracking of every vessel’s movements.

This year the Peruvian Government has announced further measures to protect the fisheries, the fishing community and the wider environment, including Maximum Catch Limits per Vessel (MCLV) – recognised by FAO, OECD and many other authorities internationally as an effective way of fairly limiting catch;  and pensions, training and parachute payments  for those giving up fishing. Wooden vessels will receive a higher quota than steel-hulled vessels.


The industrial fleet may not fish within five miles of the coast. This area is reserved for artisanal vessels. There is no quota or restriction on the artisanal catch and the fishermen can sell their catch for human consumption or for fishmeal. Satellite tracking of the movements of larger vessels ensures they do not encroach on the artisan fishing area.


The Peruvian Government is demonstrating its firm commitment to control of effluent into the sea and emissions into the atmosphere. A 2004 scheme, AproPisco, to take effluent from seven plants out to sea is being repeated in the Ferrol Bay (Chimbote) under Government decree, first to treat and then take far out to sea the waste from nearly 30 companies producing fishmeal.

In April 2008 Government Decree DS-010-2008-PRODUCE established maximum permissible limits (MPL) for the fishmeal industry effluents nationally. The decree for limits on emissions is expected to be published before the end of the year. Factories must stop receiving fish if there is any failure of their equipment for the processing of fish or protection of the environment. Finally five fishmeal plants have been ordered to relocate away from the residential areas which have grown up around them to industrial areas. In other areas, control of emissions as opposed to relocation is the preferred options as this preserves jobs and income for hundreds of thousands of workers.


The vital role of fish in the human diet, particularly oily fish such as anchovy which is high in natural and healthy omega-3s, has led both government and industry to develop the human consumption market for anchovy in Peru. In recent years there has been considerable investment in processing and distributing anchovy throughout the country and particularly into the poorer areas in the mountains.

USE IN FEED FOR FARMED SALMON (and other farmed species)

The fish harvested are destined for a range of uses including fish and oil for direct human consumption, as well as fishmeal and oil for use in farmed fish and animal feeds in many parts of the world. This fishmeal and oil makes a vital contribution to the health and welfare of the livestock to which they are fed. They also ensure that the farmed products produced are healthy, natural products rich in long-chain omega 3 oils for the consumer.

The perception that feed grade fish is diverted away from human consumption (HC) to produce feed for farmed fish, and that this is inefficient in terms of feeding the world, is mistaken.  It is estimated that there are HC markets for only a minority (FAO, 10%) of the catch. The remainder is inedible, unpalatable or not able to find an HC market. However considerable efforts are being made to direct as much as possible into HC with investment in freezing and canning facilities etc. In addition to wild caught feed grade fish, the fishmeal industry recycles increasing proportions of the trimmings from processing for human consumption (for example to produce fish fingers from cod, or steaks from farmed salmon) – including heads and offal, so avoiding the environmental and financial costs of disposal.  In short, the fishmeal industry is part of a chain that turns fish and waste most of which is unsuitable or unwanted for human consumption into attractive and palatable products such as shrimps and salmon portions.


IFFO, as the trade body covering the majority of the worldwide production, is in the process of developing a code of responsible practice for the production of fishmeal and oil covering both responsible sourcing of the fish and food safety and purity. The code is being developed in conjunction with a large number of different stakeholders including an environmental NGO, and should be launched next year. This third-party audited scheme should assist the value-chain in identifying responsibly produced fishmeal and oil for inclusion in healthy foods and feed.

Morrisons declined to make a statement.


To watch the Ecologist Film Unit report Greed of Feed click here

To see our Seven easy tips to sustainable fish click here


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