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The study described in this paper concerned the utilization of fishmeal and fish oil during the period 1999-2030. Estimates for utilization were calculated for the year 1999 and projections were made. In addition, the study considered the potential utilization of these marine resources in 2015 and 2030. The projections for 2015 and 2030 were based on projected aquaculture production levels for the species consuming aquafeeds containing marine resources and assumptions about the evolution of dietary levels of inclusion, production intensity (proportion of total production achieved through the use of commercial aquafeeds), and food conversion efficiency. The report includes a discussion of the mitigating factors that might affect true utilization levels during this period. One conclusion that might be drawn from this discussion is that, because there are so many uncertainties about the future of the farming of mainly carnivorous aquatic species, it would not be prudent to include projections for the year 2030 in this summary. In any case, the aquafeed industry has the potential to utilize all the ‘conventional’ annual supplies of fishmeal and fish oil well before that date. This means that actual utilization levels will become controlled by other issues, including economic, supply, safety, environmental, ethical and consumer attitudinal factors, well before 2030.

Considering the period up to 2015, the study has found that:

Present use of fishmeal and fish oil in aquafeeds:

Nearly 2.1 million tonnes of fishmeal and approaching 0.7 million tonnes of fish oil were used by the global aquafeed industry in 1999.

Nutritional difficulties in replacing marine resources with alternative ingredients in aquafeeds have not yet been fully overcome.

Ingredient replacement in aquafeeds is affected not only by normal competition from other parts of the animal feed sector but also by controls and concerns over the use of certain ingredients in feeds generally.

In rich economies, aquaculture, like all agricultural production (plants and animals), is affected by public concerns about food safety (e.g. the use of pesticides and herbicides, the development of genetically modified organisms, etc.) and the development of ‘organic farming’.

The animal feed industry as a whole therefore faces considerable problems related to changes in demand for its products and to concerns about the quality and safety of its ingredients, and it is subject to increasing levels of regulation.

China as a user of fishmeal and fish oil in aquafeeds:

The existing size, potential expansion, and rapidly changing characteristics of the major aquaculture producing country, China, will have a significant effect on the global demand for marine ingredient resources for aquafeeds.

About 30% of the global utilization of fishmeal by the aquaculture industry was already going into Chinese aquafeeds by 1999, with the potential of exceeding 40% by 2015.

Chinese aquafeeds are estimated to have taken about 16% of the total global aquaculture utilization of fish oil in 1999, with the potential of reaching 30% by 2015.

Future use of fishmeal and fish oil in aquafeeds:

Future expansion of aquaculture gives this sector of livestock production the potential to become the dominant market for fishmeal and fish oil well before 2015.

By the year 2015 the global aquafeed industry is expected to have the potential to utilize nearly 4.6 million tonnes of fishmeal and nearly 1.9 million tonnes of fish oil.

Thus, the global aquafeed industry has the potential to utilize 70% of the average historical annual fishmeal supply by the year 2015. If supplies of fishmeal do not increase, the ‘fishmeal trap’ will start to constrain producers of shrimp and carnivorous fish as the world market price of fishmeal increases in response to increasing demand.

Furthermore, the global aquafeed industry has the potential to exceed the average historical annual supplies of fish oil before the year 2010 and to reach 145% by 2015. This means that if supplies of fish oil do not increase, the ‘fish oil trap’ will become a very real constraint for producers of shrimp and carnivorous fish well before 2010.

The looming shortage of fish oil demands immediate attention by aquafeed manufacturers and fish oil producers.

Future supplies of fishmeal and fish oil:

Wild fish stocks presently exploited by dedicated fishmeal fisheries and other sources of raw material (waste, offals) are not likely to permit any significant and sustainable increases in the supplies of fishmeal and fish oil between now and 2015.

This is likely to remain the situation for some time, even as the world price of fishmeal and fish oil increases in real terms.

However, it seems plausible that by the time fishmeal prices have doubled, dedicated fishmeal fisheries for mesopelagics (and possibly also krill) will have developed and opened access to a very large source of raw material for fishmeal.

Further research and the practical application of its results:

Further research on potential total or partial replacement ingredients for both fishmeal and fish oil is essential; in the case of fish oil replacers, the need is now urgent.

Such studies must take into account not only the effect of marine resource replacers on standard farming parameters, such as growth and survival rates and FCR, but also on their impact on other factors including immune function and disease resistance.

The effect of potential marine resource replacers on the quality of farmed aquaculture products also needs further study; more knowledge about the impact of such replacement on the nutritional, sensory, processing, and safety characteristics of the farmed products is particularly important.

The aquafeed and aquaculture producing sectors must be ready to apply the results of such research as soon as economic and other factors dictate.

Finally, alternative forms of aquaculture that require less utilization of marine resources (e.g. the culture of omnivores and herbivores) require further promotion.

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