A new roundtable group has been formed by IFFO, the Marine Ingredients Organization and the Sustainable Fisheries Partnership with the aim of improving data on fisheries in West Africa, with the ultimate goal of improving their sustainability. .
Working with representatives from “the entire marine ingredients value chain”, IFFO and SFP organized the Global Marine Ingredients Roundtable in October to “collect data, improve their understanding of the region and make changes if necessary, ”noted a joint statement from IFFO and SFP to SeafoodSource.
Aquaculture and environment expert Kevin Fitzimmons, professor at the University of Arizona, commends IFFO for “making the right efforts to work with SFP and the most interested West African countries” , but questioned whether there was a potential for regional production of fishmeal and fish oil to grow through increased use of by-products.
“The fishery resources of these countries have been a waste for a long time; IUU, overfishing, mixed fisheries taking juveniles, as well as local corruption. It will be a difficult road, but I certainly applaud the efforts of IFFO and SFP, ”he said. “My hunch is that some of the stated goals are illusory; 50 percent of the new fishmeal and fish oil is likely to come from fish processing, of course. Wild fisheries are overexploited now. Aquaculture and fish processing are therefore the only other potential sources. And since most fish in local markets are not sold at an added value, the amount of “new” fishmeal is probably minimal. ”
In a statement to SeafoodSource, IFFO and SFP said their focus on fisheries in West Africa was well justified, highlighting an FAO prediction that up to 50 percent of the increase in the fishery Fishmeal production over the next 10 years in Africa will come from fish by-products.
“It might be possible to increase the total by applying systems and infrastructure to facilitate the collection and use of by-products,” he said. “The use of by-products is an important means of extracting the full value of the fishery resources and it should be stimulated where possible. “
Initial conversations with roundtable members focused on Mauritania and Morocco, believed to be two of the largest producers of fishmeal and fish oil on the continent. Morocco’s fishmeal production in 2020 is estimated to be 170,000 metric tons (MT) and its fish oil production to 30,000 MT. Moroccan production based on whole fish is 55 percent, while 45 percent of its production comes from by-products, according to IFFO. Estimates for Mauritania put its fishmeal production in 2020 at 110,000 MT (compared to 70,000 MT in 2014) and its fish oil production at 39,000 MT. All but 10 percent of Mauritania’s production comes from whole fish.
The IFFO / SFP statement said stricter fishing regulations – such as a law change in Mauritania in 2020 directing all catches of sardinella towards human consumption, and fishing improvement projects (FIP ) for small pelagics launched in Morocco in 2014 and 2019 and in Mauritania in 2017 – as signs of improving sustainability indicators in the region. IFFO and SFP also pointed out that in Mauritania, “all exported fishmeal and fish oil products are made from factories on land, which are all approved by the EU.”
“The fish supply to all these factories includes artisanal canoes and industrial purse seiners fishing exclusively in the waters of the Mauritanian EEZ,” the organizations said. “This has prompted factories to develop improved storage and processing facilities. This regulatory change highlights the importance of accurate recording of catches, as these data are essential for the effective application of this type of legislation and activity.
Elsewhere in Africa, the roundtable stands ready to offer support to Senegal and The Gambia to compile better data, according to SFP and IFFO. Better data collection will help it prioritize markets, they said.
“Large volumes of small pelagics are processed into fishmeal and fish oil every year in the region. There is no centralized collection of statistics in these countries. IFFO figures are estimated based on feedback from producers and brokers / traders, ”they said. “Questions have been raised as to whether the current level of small pelagic fishing compromises local food security for coastal communities that depend on seafood as their primary source of protein. The data needed to answer this question are not readily available and the roundtable will therefore strongly support efforts to achieve a better assessment of the situation. “
IFFO said its members are adamant that fish needed for food security in West Africa do not enter the fishmeal or fish oil production chain.
“Where there may be knowledge gaps, the precautionary principle should be applied and effective management should be implemented accordingly. ”
The interests of industrial and artisanal fishing “must play a role in shaping management,” he said. Despite the opaque nature of the region’s supply chains, the Global Roundtable said it would work within existing international and regional frameworks, while improving data collection “to better understand and respond to food security. and the related socio-economic concerns that have been raised. “He also” intends to use his outreach to carry out social projects and raise additional funds to support and develop them in the long term. ”
But Fitzimmons fears that the eagerness of Morocco and Mauritania, as Roundtable interlocutors, to increase exports of fishmeal and fish oil will put continued pressure on stocks.
“They are fond of exports and diverting more catches for human consumption or leaving them in the ocean for marine conservation purposes seems unlikely. Thus, making the round table a place of discussion could spoil all the effort. [towards greater sustainability],” he said.
Absent from the round table is any representative of China. None of the major Chinese producers operating fishmeal factories in Africa, like Poly Hong Dong, which operates a large fishing base in Mauritania, has yet expressed interest in joining, according to IFFO.
“The global roundtable is supported by a coalition of value chain actors ready to take action. This is a long term process and companies are invited to join over time, either as members or as ad hoc participants on specific topics, ”he said. “So far, no Chinese producer has joined, but the global roundtable will consult relevant stakeholders in due course.”
The fact that Chinese companies do not join the roundtable leaves a big void, according to Fitzimmons.
“I guess Chinese companies prefer the current situation and hate anyone who comes in and imposes rules, quotas and other impediments on the way the Chinese do business. However, as the [Communist] The party is trying to have a better international face, they can get instructions from Beijing to operate in a more reasonable way and start collaborating with other stakeholders. “
According to Ling Cao, associate professor at the School of Oceanography at Shanghai Jiaotong University, Chinese animal feed companies have been working hard to move away from fishmeal.
“In general, Chinese animal feed companies have worked hard to replace fishmeal with alternative ingredients and have made promising progress,” Cao told SeafoodSource. “Fish-free foods for low-value species are already commercially available. But for high-value species, the market needs more time to develop the fish-free foods, mainly due to the low acceptance by farmers and the high cost and unstable supply of these high quality alternative ingredients. equivalent to fishmeal and fish oil.
In a statement to SeafoodSource, Greenpeace Africa, which is in the middle of a campaign urging West African countries to end the manufacture of aquaculture feed and animal feed using fish fit for human consumption, said the absence of any Chinese companies in the new roundtable is “of concern, given both that China is the main importer of fishmeal in the region. [while the E.U. imports most of the fish oil]. “
The environmental NGO said Mauritania almost doubled its fishmeal exports to China in 2020. Last year Mauritania hit a record for its fishmeal exports with a total of 128,670 MT, according to ITC Trademap, which is based on UN Comtrade data. IFFO members “already know that their industry is not sustainable and has an impact on food security” in West Africa, Greenpeace Africa said.
“For years, scientific assessments have shown that the region’s small pelagic stocks are overexploited, and local artisanal fishing associations have repeatedly sounded the alarm on the various impacts that the [fishmeal and fish oil] the industry has on local fishery resources, the coastal environment, jobs and food security, ”he said.
In recent years, artisanal fish catches have plummeted and the price of fish to consumers in the region has skyrocketed, according to Greenpeace Africa, which has published three reports on the matter since 2019. The NGO said it There was “a long way to go” before the West African fishmeal and fish oil industry was properly regulated and transparent, and in the meantime Greenpeace Africa said that aquaculture feed companies “should simply stop sourcing from West Africa – Mauritania, Senegal, The Gambia – where the priority must be to rebuild small pelagic fish stocks and redirect all catches to human consumption.
“The use of wild caught fish as animal feed and fish is unethical and unsustainable,” he said. “These fish have always been an important and traditional source of food and the region is already prone to food insecurity. So, for international importers, using them is fundamentally bad and has a terrible socio-economic impact in West Africa.
Photo courtesy of Pierre Gleizes / Greenpeace