Do sustainability metrics for marine ingredients need a rethink?

A new review proposes a more holistic approach by using life cycle assessment (LCA) to evaluate the sustainability of marine ingredients, which the IFFO also supports.
Anchovy catch on a Peruvian fishing vessel.

Anchovy catch on a Peruvian fishing vessel.

Photo: Produce.

A new review, published this month in the journal Reviews in Fisheries Science and Aquaculture, suggests that more holistic approach is needed to measure the sustainability of aquaculture feed ingredients.

The review, co-authored by Dr Brett Glencross, Technical Director at IFFO (The Marine Ingredients Organisation), explores how sustainability metrics for the marine ingredients sector have developed alongside the rapid growth of the aquaculture industry.

The review authors contend that traditional metrics such as eFIFO (economic Fish In : Fish Out), FFDR (Forage Fish Dependency Ratio), FIFO (Fish In : Fish Out), and FCR (Feed Conversion Ratio), which are widely used to measure the efficiency of marine ingredient usage, fall short of accurately representing environmental sustainability.

These metrics, the review says, fail to account for differences in fishery management and the significance of small, fast-growing forage fish in preserving nutrients within the food chain.

The review authors thus recommend adopting a unified metric system for all feed ingredients, including both marine and agricultural-based sources, with Life Cycle Assessment (LCA) being highlighted as the most effective and comprehensive method.

Life Cycle Assessment a better way of measuring sustainability of ingredients, say authors

LCA assesses sustainability by considering the use of land, water, energy, and other resources, in line with EU and Global Feed Life Cycle-Assessment Institute standards, the IFFO says.

According to the IFFO, LCA "is a far more complex calculation, and analyses take into account a variety of environmental impact categories, such as global warming potential, cumulative energy use, abiotic resource use, ozone depletion potential, consumptive water use; and land use, among others."

The IFFO says this comprehensive approach clarifies the strategic importance of marine ingredients in aquaculture, focusing on optimizing their nutritional value and ensuring the retention of essential nutrients within the food chain.

“Using this framework, it becomes easier to understand the role that marine ingredients play in the aquaculture sector: they are being used more as strategic ingredients at key points in aquaculture production cycles, with a trend towards optimising their nutritional contributions, and ensuring we maximise the efficiency of their use," Glencross said in an IFFO press release supporting the review's conclusions.

"This helps us to retain more of those valuable nutrients within our food chain," he added.

The review "The Evolution of Sustainability Metrics for the Marine Ingredient Sector: Moving Towards Holistic Assessments of Aquaculture Feed" can be viewed here.

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