World fishmeal production in 2006, at 5 million
tonnes, was 20% below average levels-a consequence of climatic conditions and
reduced fishing effort to conserve stocks. Prices virtually doubled as a result,
driven by continued strong demand in expanding worldwide aquaculture
Feed makers still recognise the nutritional benefits of fishmeal. Despite
high prices and availability of synthetic alternatives, fishmeal continues to be
viewed as a vital feed ingredient for farm livestock, and is still widely used
in pig and poultry diets.
In the UK, for example, official UK statistics
show 2006 consumption on a par with 2005, and a recent FIN (Fishmeal Information Network) survey of pig
producers confirmed that fishmeal is still widely used in pig feeds, especially
in medication-free weaner and early grower diets.
At an average price ratio of 1:5 against soy meal, fishmeal's
continued inclusion defies all previous rules of thumb, yet farmers point to its
critical role as an 'insurance policy' in maintaining fertility and herd
Fishmeal prices have now peaked and are forecast to come down
this year with a return to more normal production levels of 6 to 6.5 million
Challenge to fishmeal
But high prices have not been the
only challenge. In 2001, feeding fishmeal to ruminants in the EU was banned as
part of BSE control measures. Initial concerns that fishmeal could contain
infected meat and bone meal fuelled wider political debate about the
sustainability of fish stocks and the ethics of feeding non-vegetable proteins
to farm livestock.
A unique partnership between GAFTA and the Sea Fish
Industry Authority, FIN was set up to promote fishmeal in the face of such
Drawing on factual evidence and independent sources of
information, FIN has consistently highlighted the quality and integrity of
fishmeal, its production and its responsible sourcing from managed non-food fish
stocks and food fish trimmings.
With no scientific
evidence to link fishmeal with BSE-type conditions, FIN has
supported efforts to keep fishmeal on the European agenda since the 2001
In December 2006, a common text was finally agreed between the EU
parliament and Council which paves the way, firstly for fishmeal to be used in
multi-species mills, and secondly for fishmeal to be permitted once again in the
diets of young ruminants. This will be welcome news for many livestock
The effects of fishmeal's withdrawal from ruminant feed were
highlighted in a recent FIN survey of Scottish hill sheep farmers, more than 90%
of whom wanted to use fishmeal again. Most had encountered major difficulties in
maintaining the milkiness of ewes without fishmeal, and some reported an
increase in serious welfare problems, including lamb mortality and
hypocalcaemia, or 'staggers' in breeding ewes.
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