The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) partnered with the USDA to examine the issue of aquaculture feed and to create strategies for the development of alternative feed for use in aquaculture farming. The findings of this effort are as follows:1
- Fish meal and fish oil are not nutritionally required for farmed fish to grow.
- Farming of fish is a very efficient way to produce animal protein and other human nutritional needs.
- Feed manufacturers making diets for carnivorous fish and shrimp have already reduced their reliance on fish meal and fish oil.
- Economics is currently the major driver of using alternate feed ingredients in feed mills.
- The net environmental effects of the production and use of alternate feeds should be considered.
- The human health implications of using alternative feeds needs to be better understood and considered.
- Fish meal and fish oil are minor contributors to the world protein and edible oil supply.
- Recovery and utilization of fisheries processing waste should be encouraged and increased.
- Plants produce the vast majority of protein and edible oils in the world, accounting for 94 percent of total protein production and 86 percent of total edible oil production.
- Algae-based biofuel may present opportunities for feed ingredient production because protein is a byproduct of oil recovery from algae, and marine algae produce the long-chain
1 NOAA/USDA. 2011. The Future of Aquafeeds (Alternative Feeds Initiative). NOAA Technical Memorandum NMFS F/SPO-124. 93 pp
omega-3 fatty acids and certain amino acids important to fish and human health.
- There will likely be increased demand for and production of ethanol and bioplastics. Byproducts from these industries could make good ingredients for fish diets.
- As replacements, many alternatives are higher in cost per unit fish gain (biological value) than fish meal and fish oil.
- Fish have dietary needs and preferences for specific compounds not found in plants, so there is a need for specialized products that supply these compounds and/or add flavor to the diet.
- Alternative sources of protein and oil are common commodities used in livestock and companion animal feeds and come from novel byproducts from other industries, underutilized resources, or completely novel products.
- Plants and other alternatives contain some compounds (antinutrients) that are detrimental to fish.
- Harvest of lower-trophic-level species, such as krill, for fish meal and oil production may be possible, but the environmental benefits afforded to the marine ecosystem from these species should be considered along with the economic and nutritional aspects of their use.
- The use of bycatch for production of fish meal and fish oil could provide a substantial amount of these products without increasing the current impact from the wild capture fisheries.
- Demand for long-chain omega-3 fatty acids for both direct human consumption and feed ingredients is likely to increase beyond the amounts available from marine resources.
- Farmed fish species are being increasingly domesticated and performance is improving through conventional genetic selection and selection for performance on plant-based and/or low-fish meal–based aquafeeds.
- Scientific information on the nutritional requirements of farmed fish species, and feed ingredients, and the interaction between the fish and the diet, will need to expand greatly to make substantial improvements in feed formulation by commercial aquaculture feed producers.
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