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Is fishmeal availability going to be stable in 2023?

March 6, 2023  By Treena Hein


(Photo: Björn Wylezich / Adobe Stock)

Fishmeal availability is always a concern in the global aquaculture industry as it is a critical ingredient for the farming of many species. There is good news on this front from the IFFO (Marine Ingredients Organisation) – volumes look solid for 2023, with many main “reduction” fisheries (the biomass is processed into oil and meal) around the world doing well.

In terms of the fish species involved, the anchovy (Peru mainly), menhaden (US-based fisheries) and the sardine (mainly West Africa) provide great amounts of raw material for the production of fishmeal. First, a look at anchovies.

Anchovy overview

The three different anchovy fisheries in the Southeastern Pacific Ocean are significant to the global supply of fishmeal. These are the Northern-Central Peruvian stock (the largest reduction fishery in the world), the Southern Peru/ Northern Chile stock and the Central-Southern Chile stock, explains IFFO Director General Petter Johannessen.

“The Peruvian anchovy historically has been providing the raw material to produce roughly 20 per cent of the global tonnage of fishmeal,” he says, “with its prices becoming a world benchmark for all trades of fishmeal.”

Johannessen notes that in 2022 in Peru, both fishmeal and fish oil production dropped due to lower quota being granted to the North-Centre of the country in the last quarter of 2021.

However, on November 23 last year, the Peruvian authorities announced that the second 2022 fishing season of anchovy and white anchovy in the ocean off the North-Centre of the country would start.

The quota for this region has been fixed at 2.283 million tons, which Johannessen says “indicates a healthy biomass, estimated at 6.8 million tons. Once again, the positive effects of the responsible management of the largest reduction fishery in the world is confirmed.”

Fishmeal and oil in Chile

In Chile, fishmeal production is based mainly on three species: anchovy, sardines and mackerel. Johannessen notes that mackerel has a strong human consumption market (especially in West Africa), so only its by-products are reduced to meal and oil.

There was good news in September 2022 when a year-on-year rebound of fishmeal production of more than 20 per cent was reported in Northern Chile. However, the Southern region lowered its production by over 20 per cent.

For fish oil production, Johannessen reports that both Chile’s North and South regions have reported a year-on-year decrease, as a consequence of the unusually colder waters periodically produced by the natural climatic phenomenon of La Niña.

In terms of sustaining these fisheries, Johannesen reports that in July 2022, Peru and Chile (which, as explained, share a Pacific anchovy biomass) announced the launch of the bi-national Humboldt II project. This initiative has six pillars, including sustainable fisheries management, improvement of environmental quality and conservation of marine biodiversity.

Menhaden and more

Total fishmeal and fish oil outputs made from menhaden in the first three quarters of 2022 were up, thanks to healthy U.S.-based catches in the Gulf of Mexico.

The by-products of the hake and pollock fisheries in Alaska and Canada are made into fishmeal and oil, and Johannessen says these fisheries are managed effectively by corresponding authorities through quotas and fishing seasons.

In Africa, fishmeal and fish oil is produced from various species mostly in Morocco, Mauritania and South Africa.

According to Johannessen, Morocco and Mauritania have been going through an important revision of their fisheries management in recent years. “The objective was to destine their landings primarily towards the direct human consumption market, leaving by-products originated from the filleting/canning industry to meal and oil processing,” he says. “These regulatory changes have caused some disruptions to the regular production of fishmeal and oil.”

However, thanks to a healthy fishing season in 2022 in South Africa, both fishmeal and fish oil outputs rebounded. In particular, a record production of fish oil was reported there for last year due to unusually high anchovy oil yields.

Looking at northern Europe’s main reduction fisheries, the main species are capelin and blue whiting, along with sprat and boarfish. Herring and mackerel fisheries for human food also provide fishmeal raw material in the processing by-products.

Last year, production of fishmeal and fish oil rebounded in northern European countries due to larger-than-average capelin landings. Johannessen adds that “in 2023, the recovery could be driven by the blue whiting increased quota.” However, he says no other reduction fisheries anywhere in the world are expected to increase their performance in comparison to what they achieved in 2022.

China’s fisheries

The backbone of the Chinese fishery intended for fishmeal and fish oil production used to be anchovy, but stricter environmental regulations have been introduced and the domestic fishing fleet has been downsized. Currently, anchovy whole fish and tuna by-products provide most of the wild raw material for reduction, along with a growing contribution from the farmed tilapia off-cuts, reports Johannessen.

Indeed, the volume of fishmeal made from aquaculture by-products is expected to continue to grow in China.

“China’ s aquaculture production has increased from ~12 million tonnes to ~30 million tonnes between 2000 and 2019,” says Johannessen. “The bulk of production in China is based on low-trophic levels species like carp, but also on Whiteleg shrimp, eels, and many marine species. Looking at the 2021 IFFO figures, over two million tonnes of fishmeal use occurred in China, with over 1.8 million tonnes of fishmeal imported.”

Responsible sourcing

Many companies in different industries are increasingly requiring that marine ingredients be sourced from responsibly-managed fisheries. Aquaculture is among them, along with pet food and nutraceuticals, notes Francisco Aldon, CEO of MarinTrust, a global certification firm. Its standard is based on a fully-traceable and responsible supply, driven years ago by the need for the fishing industry to provide assurances around illegal, underreported and unregulated fishing.

Aldon says the global share of marine ingredients production which was certified against the MarinTrust Standard in 2017-2021 was 49 per cent. In terms of what’s happened since then, he reports that from June 2021 to June 2022, twelve sites across Chile, Ecuador, Finland, Mexico, Morocco, Spain and Thailand achieved the MarinTrust Standard. Also during this period, four companies in Chile, China, Peru and Spain joined the MarinTrust Chain of Custody Standard.

By 2025, MarinTrust has a goal of having 75 per cent of the global marine ingredients supply certified as responsibly sourced, under the MarinTrust Improver Programme or undergoing assessment. (The MarinTrust Improver Programme provides a structured pathway for improvement and guidance on good practices for those processing plants whose raw material do not meet the MarinTrust requirements. It enables fisheries to obtain recognition for consistent progress made towards achieving MarinTrust approval.)

As Aldon explains, reaching the 75 per cent goal relies on continues industry engagement and also recognition by other standards. MarinTrust engages with the whole marine ingredients value chain, from marine ingredients and feed producers to processors and retailers. MarinTrust also works in partnership with other certification standards organizations, and signed an MOU with the Global Seafood Alliance in 2021 to work together to meet the 75 per cent goal.


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