British Sandeel fishery closures set to impact the aquafeed and salmon industries
The UK’s proposal to fully close the Dogger Bank to EU fishing for Sandeel is seen to profoundly impact the EU fishing sector, extending to the aquafeed and salmon industries. Apparently driven by a conservation goal for the marine ecosystem, this move is going to contribute towards a significant surge in global fishmeal and fish oil prices amid an existing fishmeal and fish oil shortage that has been exacerbated by the closure of the Peruvian anchovy fisheries. This will significantly strain European aquaculture, intensifying challenges within the global food security landscape.
This article explores the intricate dimensions of this impending closure, assessing its actual relevance for conservation and its broader implications for the European feed industry and food security.
Sandeels, small schooling fish abundant in the North Sea, play an important role as a forage species in the marine ecosystem. They serve as a primary food source for larger fish like cod and haddock, as well as seabirds such as puffins and kittiwakes. Moreover, Sandeels form a crucial link in the marine food web, transferring energy from plankton to higher trophic levels and this underscores the critical need for the sustainable management of this fishery, not only for seabirds but for related fisheries.
For commercial fishing, the Sand eel populations are categorized into 7 management areas. The proposed bans would imply a complete closure of British waters to Sandeel fishing in the management areas 1 and 4 (see map for details). The response from the EU to the British consultation on spatial management closures emphasizes the importance of a science-driven and proportional approach in managing Sandeel fisheries. Regrettably, it seems that EU responses are not taken into consideration even though stakeholders have a proven record of sustainable management of the Sandeel fishery while protecting the marine environment.
The current management system relies on scientific advice from the International Council for the Exploration of the Sea (ICES), which is considered authoritative for EU fisheries. This approach gains further endorsement through environmental certifications like the Marine Stewardship Council (MSC) and MarinTrust, both of which have previously endorsed the Sandeel industry, ensuring environmentally sound operations with minimal ecological impact. ICES, MSC and MarinTrust have all emphasized the importance of precautionary measures in Sandeel fishing, including catch quotas based not only on maximum sustainable yield but also on modeling to safeguard the broader ecosystem.Thus, the fishery already enacts precautionary measures and sets catch quotas to protect Sandeel populations and the wider ecosystem through the extensive use of models, predatory-prey relationships, and historical catch data. Adhering to this advice demonstrates a commitment to responsible and sustainable fishing practices.
While the closure of designated UK waters has a strong sentiment towards the conservation of seabirds, it is vital to strike an objective balance by considering both economic and ecological impacts. Forage fish fisheries may affect prey availability, but the limitations of the available scientific evidence underscore the challenge of fully understanding the effects of fisheries closures on predator demography. For guillemot, razorbill, and puffin for example, A recent study showed there’s actually no clear evidence of negative or positive effects from forage fisheries or their closures.
Historical records demonstrate annual landings of approximately 81,000 tons of Sandeel, a pivotal marine resource for the EU’s primary stakeholder, Denmark, sourced from Area 1, particularly the UK’s Doggerbank region. This underscores the profound historical, socio-economic, and ecological significance of this region and emphasizes the need for a delicate balance to ensure the preservation of both ecological stability and the socio-economic aspects associated with Sandeel fishing.
An overview of Sandeel landings from Denmark, the primary harvester of Sandeel in the EU, between 2015 and 2023 reveals that these landings originated from five out of the seven Sandeel management areas. Area 1 has a historical record of yielding the highest landings and remains a significant contributor to the European Sandeel quota.
The possible upcoming closure of Sandeel fishing in UK areas is poised to have a significant impact on both EU fisheries and European aquaculture production in countries such as Norway, Scotland, and others. Danish Sandeel fishing has historically been pivotal for the global fishmeal market, supporting industries reliant on fish-based products. An abrupt cessation of this practice could disrupt supply chains, impact jobs, and set off a chain reaction affecting local economies. To provide clear context of its expected impact, since 2015, Denmark has landed a significant amount of Sandeel from Areas 1 and 4, totaling 860,000 tons and this averages out to 95,000 tons annually. Area 1 has historically been the most critical for Danish Sandeel landings, constituting about 732,000 tons, 85% of the total Sandeel landings.
The production of fishmeal and fish oil has been significant, forming a cornerstone of the global fishmeal market and supporting various industries. The potential loss of this vital fishmeal production source is highly concerning, particularly due to its unprecedented impact on food security, especially concerning farmed salmon production which has a huge role in the growing demand for sustainable protein.
Fishmeal and fish oil are vital components in aquaculture feeds, Fishmeal and fish oil are essential sources of limited nutrients like methionine and the omega-3 fatty acids, EPA, and DHA. The decline in fishmeal and fish oil availability across Europe due to the closures of British waters to the Sandeel fishery is expected to disrupt the supply chain for farmed salmon, posing a challenge to European and British food security.
Examining the 2023 Sandeel season, it is estimated that the Sandeels landed in areas 1 and 4 will contribute to the production of 33,700 tons of salmon feed which will support the production of approximately 30,600 tons of Atlantic salmon. Additionally, there will be a surplus of 12,750 tons of fishmeal available to be sold and utilized in other food sectors since fish oil is often the limiting ingredient in aquafeeds. To compensate for the high-nutrient density and palatability stimulating characteristics of fishmeal and fish oil ingredients, the aquafeed industry would either need to pay more for the increased price of fishmeal due to the decreased availability in Europe or find additional ingredients to provide these crucial nutrients in the future. An analysis of formulations across various species indicates that plant proteins and oils are now providing the bulk of the nutrients in aquafeeds, while fishmeal and fish oil provide those strategic nutrients that are hard to replace. However, recent studies have shown that this increased use of plant resources worsens the environmental footprint of aquaculture compared to the use of marine ingredients. Furthermore, sustainability concerns arise regarding the consumption of food-grade plant resources like soybean protein and rapeseed oil in aquafeeds. recent studies have shown that this increased use of plant resources worsens the environmental footprint of aquaculture compared to the use of marine ingredients. Furthermore, sustainability concerns arise regarding the consumption of food-grade plant resources like soybean protein and rapeseed oil in aquafeeds. recent studies have shown that this increased use of plant resources worsens the environmental footprint of aquaculture compared to the use of marine ingredients. Furthermore, sustainability concerns arise regarding the consumption of food-grade plant resources like soybean protein and rapeseed oil in aquafeeds.
In conclusion, the UK’s decision to fully close the Dogger Bank to EU Sandeel fishing is a significant conservation measure with far-reaching implications. While prioritizing conservation, this action triggers concerns about potential disruptions in fishmeal supply, essential for aquafeed production and the salmon industry. It underscores the necessity for a science-based, collaborative strategy to balance sustainable Sandeel fishing, mitigate ecological impacts, and maintain adequate prey for the marine food chain, as is in current ICES advice. The historical importance of Danish Sandeel fishing underscores the potential economic ramifications for EU fisheries, with a looming threat to European food security, especially in the context of farmed salmon supply.
MID submits PFAS data to EFSA
We are pleased to announce that EFFOP (European fishmeal and fish oil producers) has successfully submitted a comprehensive dataset profiling Poly- and Perfluoroalkyl Substances (PFAS) in fishmeal to the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA).
In direct response to EFSA’s “Call for continuous collection of chemical contaminants occurrence data in food and feed,” EFFOP has shared a robust dataset comprising data from 175 distinct fishmeal batches. We have engaged proactively with journalists, policy makers, scientists, and the public, fostering a comprehensive understanding of the implications surrounding PFAS contamination.
The significance of EFSA’s role in upholding food and feed safety cannot be overstated. The dataset shared by EFFOP will be a foundational resource for well-informed risk assessments, laying the groundwork for prudent risk management strategies concerning future PFAS levels in feed. Notably, EFFOP’s investigation stands as the most extensive of its kind to date in monitoring PFAS levels within fishmeal. This is particularly vital due to the dearth of comprehensive data, especially within the European context.
In essence, the data underscores that PFAS levels within European fishmeal exhibit strong context-specific variation, influenced by factors such as species and spatial-temporal dynamics. Noteworthy is the calculated average across the 175 samples, which stands at 4.6 ng/g, comfortably within the EU limit of 8 ng/g applicable to most marine fish species.
This data submission marks a significant stride forward in our ongoing efforts to comprehensively understand and mitigate the impact of PFAS in fishmeal. Through collective and diligent endeavours, we are actively shaping a more informed and responsible approach to addressing this challenge. As an additional quality parameter, PFAS levels are now routinely assessed for each fishmeal batch by producers and are available upon customer request.
For further information or inquiries, please do not hesitate to reach out to MID at Mid@maring.org
Addressing concerns of overfishing in the Baltic herring supply chain: toward enhanced technical transparency
In response to public concerns that have emerged regarding the Baltic herring supply chain, representatives from leading fishmeal producers FFSkagen and TripleNine Group are actively working to provide clear and specific information to address these apprehensions. The aim of this article is to delve into the technical intricacies of the supply chain, to remove ambiguity and promote transparency in every aspect.
Recognizing the need for accurate information, we want to assure stakeholders that our commitment to sustainable and judicious resource management remains unwavering. Contrary to misconceptions, the fishmeal and oil production industry adheres to stringent regulations and responsible practices. One crucial aspect to consider is the complexity of the supply chain itself. Fishmeal production involves a meticulous process that is tailored to meet individual customer specifications. Each batch of fishmeal is customized, ensuring the highest quality and meeting the unique requirements of the customer. This customization extends to multiple specifications for the same customer, further illustrating the complexity of these operations.
It is important to note that fishmeal from the Baltic Sea is widely recognized as a high-quality product. However, the factories must contend with potential contaminants such as dioxin and PFAS that have been found in the Baltic. Under normal circumstances in a sustainability perspective, prioritizing the inclusion of a product in the human food supply chain rather than the feed supply chain is considered more judicious. Due to the generalized conditions of the Baltic Sea mentioned above, fish sourced specifically for fishmeal and fish oil production are not deemed safe for large-scale human consumption. To ensure consumer safety of the feed product, rigorous testing and quality control measures are implemented to safeguard against elevated levels of these substances, this includes the removal of dioxin which is not possible to perform on a food grade product without intensive processing. This method has been utilized by the fishmeal sector for a number of years and has contributed to the active removal of dioxins we see in the Baltic sea today, since removed dioxins are sent for destruction. These precautions reflect our commitment to delivering safe and reliable products to the market.
Addressing the interest surrounding the percentage of raw materials produced from the Baltic Sea that ultimately are designated toward Norwegian salmon feed, there are some technical challenges in providing a precise figure due to the customized nature of fishmeal production. Rather than providing potentially misleading information, the fishmeal producers offer a broader understanding of where fishmeal utilizing Baltic Sea raw materials is generally employed. That is by analyzing the quantity of fishmeal produced from the raw materials received. By comparing this data against established quotas and catches, one can objectively assess the actual volume of Baltic fish harvested for fishmeal production. In this regard, MID have generated a dataset that highlights the contribution of Baltic sprat and herring to Danish fishmeal production. This dataset, certified by Marin Trust or MSC, demonstrates our commitment to transparency and provides a tangible reference point for further analysis.
It is important to emphasize that the quantity of fishmeal utilized in feeds can vary due to a range of factors, including species, life stage, and specific customer requirements. This variability underscores the dynamic nature of the industry and the need for careful evaluation on a case-by-case basis.
While we acknowledge the limitations in differentiating sales to specific aquaculture or agriculture customers within Europe, we remain open to further discussions and collaborations aimed at enhancing transparency in the Baltic herring supply chain. We believe that through open dialogue, cooperation, and shared goals, we can collectively work towards greater transparency and responsible resource management in this vital industry
Balancing nature and industry: MID’s science-backed approach to Sandeel Fishing
The response to the recent British consultation on spatial management measures for industrial sandeel fishing highlights the importance of a science-driven approach in managing sandeel fisheries. By incorporating precautionary measures and considering ecosystem needs, stakeholders aim to ensure the sustainable management of sandeel fishing while protecting the marine environment. The current management system for sandeel fishing is based on scientific advice provided by the International Council for the Exploration of the Sea (ICES). This advice emphasizes the need for precautionary measures and sets catch quotas to safeguard sandeel populations and the wider ecosystem. By adhering to this advice, stakeholders demonstrate their commitment to responsible and sustainable fishing practices.
The current scientific support and certifications
The sandeel fishery management receives scientific support from reputable sources such as ICES. Comprehensive assessments, along with certifications like the Marine Stewardship Council (MSC) and MarinTrust, validate the precautionary nature of the current management approach. These certifications ensure that the fishery operates in an environmentally friendly manner, with minimal impact on the ecosystem. The advice provided by ICES is widely recognized as scientifically sound, considering factors such as fish population abundance, status, and the overall impact of fishing on the ecosystem. Additionally, the ICES advice, which is considered the authoritative source for EU fisheries, sets quotas based on a robust management strategy evaluation that incorporates precautionary measures. The sandeel fishery management prioritizes the preservation of sandeel populations consumed by predators, aligning with the needs of the ecosystem. To ensure food availability for all sandeel predators, the sandeel natural mortality is predicted and set at a sufficiently high level, in line with ecosystem-based advice. The ICES advice recommends reducing fishing pressure when the sandeel stock falls below safe biological limits, such as the MSYBtrigger for long-lived stocks and Bescapement for short-lived stocks. For sandeel, the ICES MSY strategy, known as the bescapement strategy, aims to maintain a specific amount of fish (Bescapement) in the sea for the subsequent spawning season, rather than applying a constant fishing mortality rate. By avoiding excessive fishing pressure on large biomass and leaving smaller biomass unfished, this management strategy minimizes density-dependent declines in sandeel recruitment and mitigates potential impacts on other species. The Bescapement level ensures less than a 5% risk of negatively affecting recruitment in the following year. Furthermore, the biomass is predicted while considering the consumption of sandeel by fish, seabirds, and marine mammals, ensuring that natural predator mortality takes precedence over fisheries mortality. If achieving Bescapement becomes unattainable in a particular year, the closure of the fishery is recommended. Additionally, in years of exceptionally high recruitment, fishing mortality is capped to reduce pressure on large year classes. This management strategy aims to minimize density-dependent declines in sandeel recruitment, as well as the potential impact on other species, by avoiding excessive fishing pressure on large biomass and leaving smaller biomass unfished.
Ongoing scientific assessments, led by ICES, aim to establish a benchmark for the sandeel industry. Stakeholders recognize the importance of incorporating the latest scientific advice into future management decisions. Pending the release of updated ICES advice, MID has advocated that maintaining the current management strategy is recommended, ensuring decisions are based on the most up-to-date and comprehensive scientific assessments. MID has also advised that there is a limited or negligible likelihood of any direct positive outcomes or improvements in the ecosystem resulting from the full closure of industrial sandeel fishing in English waters within the North Sea. This is primarily due to the fact that the existing management practices already adhere to the ICES ecosystem-based advice, which takes into account the ecosystem’s needs and ensures sustainable fishing practices. A balanced approach, considering scientific evidence, stakeholder consultation, and sustainable management strategies, will ultimately contribute to the ongoing preservation of the sandeel fishery and the surrounding ecosystem.
MID holds successful workshop on “Danish solutions on of pelagic bulk landings”
On Friday 21st April, “The Danish Solution on Pelagic Bulk Landings” took place at MID. The purpose of the event was to to discuss the handling of weighing and requirements of species sorting regarding landings and deliveries to Danish fishmeal and fish oil factories. The event had a diverse range of speakers who shared their knowledge and experiences in the industry.
The event started with Anne Mette Bæk, the managing director of Marine Ingredients Denmark, welcoming the attendees and discussing the industry’s participation in establishing the “Danish way of control of landings.”
Peter Jørgen Eliasen, Chief Consultant of the Ministry of Fisheries, then gave a presentation on the current status of the revision of the EU Fisheries Control Regulation, providing attendees with valuable insights into the changes and how they might impact the industry.
Dr. Marie Storr-Paulsen, Head of the Section for Monitoring and Data at DTU Aqua, discussed the methods used in gathering data of landings in Denmark and the need for robust data that can contribute towards better management in the future.
Lone Agathon, a consultant at Control Authorities, talked about how the implemented solutions work in practice. She shared her experience of working with the implemented solutions and discussed their effectiveness in achieving the industry’s goals.
Peter Kongerslev, Senior Advisor at Scandic Pelagic A/S, then discussed how FF Skagen and Scandic Pelagic implemented the “Danish way of control of bulk landings.” Attendees gained insight into the practical applications of the solutions utilised by fishmeal producer FF Skagen and how they have modernized their systems
Cato Christensen, Inspector at Skawinspection, gave a presentation on independent third-party inspection of pelagic bulk landings, ISO standard, and accrediting of the operation. This presentation provided attendees with valuable insights into the importance of independent third-party inspections and the standards they adhere to.
Lise Laustsen, Senior Advisor at Danish Pelagic Producers Organization, then discussed plans for implementing camera CCTV onboard pelagic vessels in Denmark. Attendees gained insight into the importance of using CCTV cameras to enhance the control and monitoring of the pelagic bulk landings.
Finally, the event concluded with a workshop by the Icelandic Directorate of Fisheries. The workshop provided attendees with an opportunity to discuss and exchange ideas on related topics, enhancing their understanding of the issues and potential solutions. Overall, the event provided attendees with valuable insights into the industry and the measures taken to control and monitor pelagic bulk landings. The diverse range of speakers ensured that attendees gained knowledge and expertise from different perspectives, making the event an informative and collaborative platform for all.
MID statement on PFAS in fishmeal
Fishmeal is recognized by nutritionists as a high-quality and very digestible feed ingredient that is favored for addition to the diets of most farm animals.
Fishmeal carries large quantities of energy per unit weight and is an excellent source of protein, lipids (oils), minerals, and vitamins. Specifically, the high levels of lysine and methionine can be difficult to replace when using other feed ingredients.
At the European fishmeal and fish oil producers (EFFOP) PFAS workshop March 22nd 2023, the nutritional, welfare and environmental challenges associated with replacing fishmeal in the Danish egg industry were highlighted. Marine Ingredients Denmark (MID) understands the decision that has led to the removal of fishmeal for organic egg producers in Denmark, due to a desire to have a feed ingredient that that is “100% PFAS free”. Following the DTU study on organic eggs, the Danish Veterinary and Food Administration has also examined fish from marine environment and fish farms during this period. 100% of the samples showed either no PFAS or levels far below the limit value, according to the Danish Veterinary and Food Administration. “The new samples show that there is no risk of getting unwanted PFAS in fish from marine and fish farms, despite the fact that the farmed fish actually receive significant levels of fishmeal as part of their feed” according to the Danish Veterinary and Food Administration. This suggests that the ongoing question of high PFAS carry over from fishmeal may be a specific issue to eggs. But more research is needed.
Since the DTU press release, EFFOP has been working to map areas of risk and how fishmeal from these areas falls into current EU regulations. No current levels are advised for feed ingredients, this paucity of information has created challenges, however EFFOP will coordinate and share all its data with EFSA to assist the decision makers. What can be seen from the data so far, is that PFAS levels in European fishmeal is very context specific and likely driven by species-specifics, production methods and spatial and temporal variations. PFAS levels have become an additional quality parameter routinely performed for each fishmeal batch by the producers and this will be available on request by the customer.
MID would be happy to collaborate for future PFAS monitoring and toxicokinetics with fishmeal.