With the world’s population expected to reach 9.7 billion by 2050, aquaculture will need to increase production by 30–40 million tons p.a. by 2030 to keep up with the current rate of consumption.
Today, 3 billion people worldwide rely on seafood as their main source of protein.
However, one third of ocean fisheries are currently overfished, and two thirds are fished to their maximum sustainable yield.
Only aquaculture can fill the gap. However, one major constraint to the growth of aquaculture is the industry’s reliance on marine ingredients used in the feed, principally fish meal and fish oil, with the latter being critical. Fish oil contains the key omega-3 fatty acids EPA and DHA, which are important not only for fish health and development, but also for the nutritional value of the final product for human consumption.
Fish oil, and in particular omega-3 EPA and DHA, is a finite natural resource derived from the capture of wild, oily fish such as anchovies, sprat and capelin.
Each year, approximately 16 million tons of oily fish, or 17% of the world’s fisheries, are captured and processed into about 5 million tons of fish meal and 1 million tons of fish oil, of which a mere 200,000 tons are made up by the important omega-3 fatty acids EPA and DHA. And about 75% of this is used in aquaculture feeds.
Owing to the finite nature of these fatty acids, the salmon industry has had to reduce its use of this resource in order to maintain sufficient supplies to enable the industry to continue growing and keep up with the strong consumer demand for salmon.
However, this has led to a 50% decline in the levels of omega-3 EPA and DHA in salmon fillets, whether of Norwegian, Scottish, Chilean or Tasmanian origin.
This reduction in the nutritional value of salmon is a key concern for the value chain. Consumers purchase salmon for several reasons, but it is mainly the healthy omega-3 content in salmon that is the key motivation.
Finding alternative sources of these precious omega-3 resources is therefore a top priority for aquaculture in general and for the salmon industry in particular.