Global adoption of novel aquaculture feeds could substantially reduce forage fish demand by 2030

Abstract

With the global supply of forage fish at a plateau, fed aquaculture must continue to reduce dependence on fishmeal and oil in feeds to ensure sustainable sector growth. The use of novel aquaculture feed ingredients is growing, but their contributions to scalable and sustainable aquafeed solutions are unclear. Here, we show that global adoption of novel aquafeeds could substantially reduce aquaculture’s forage fish demand by 2030, maintaining feed efficiencies and omega-3 fatty acid profiles. We combine production data, scenario modelling and a decade of experimental data on forage fish replacement using microalgae, macroalgae, bacteria, yeast and insects to illustrate how reducing future fish oil demand, particularly in high-value species such as salmonids, will be key for the sustainability of fed aquaculture. However, considerable uncertainties remain surrounding novel feed efficacy across different life-cycle stages and taxa, and various social, environmental, economic and regulatory challenges will dictate their widespread use. Yet, we demonstrate how even limited adoption of novel feeds could aid sustainable aquaculture growth, which will become increasingly important for food security.

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Fig. 1: Historical supply, feed use and projected aquaculture demand for forage fish across 2030 growth scenarios.
Fig. 2: Relative change to feed conversion ratios with fishmeal replacement for different animal groups across novel feed types.
Fig. 3: Relative change to the omega-3 index in species tissues following fish oil replacement.
Fig. 4: Simulated global forage fish savings across animal groups with the incorporation of novel feed ingredients under different aquaculture growth scenarios to 2030.

Data availability

Aquaculture production data are publicly available and were accessed through FishStatJ55. All data products used for analyses in this study are publicly available through a GitHub repository (https://github.com/cottrellr/alternativefeeds). All data that support this study are available from the corresponding author on request.

Code availability

All custom code produced during the analyses were generated using R statistical software version 3.4.3 and are publicly available through a GitHub repository (https://github.com/cottrellr/alternativefeeds).

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Acknowledgements

The authors acknowledge funding and intellectual support from the Centre for Marine Socioecology, University of Tasmania and the Food System Impacts and Sustainability Working Group at the National Center for Ecological Analysis and Synthesis (NCEAS) at the University of California, Santa Barbara. R.S.C. acknowledges funding from the CSIRO–UTAS Quantitative Marine Science Program and Australian Training Program. H.E.F. and B.S.H. acknowledge funding from the Zegar Family Foundation and, on behalf of M.M., the IAEA is grateful to the Government of the Principality of Monaco for the support provided to its Environment Laboratories.

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R.S.C. and H.E.F. designed the study. R.S.C. conducted the analysis and wrote the initial draft. J.L.B., H.E.F., B.S.H. and M.M. contributed to methodological refinements and conceptual considerations. All authors contributed to completion of the manuscript through comments and edits of the text and figures.

Corresponding author

Correspondence to Richard S. Cottrell.

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Competing interests

H.E.F. is a scientific advisor on the Aquaculture Stewardship Council Technical Advisory Group.

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Cottrell, R.S., Blanchard, J.L., Halpern, B.S. et al. Global adoption of novel aquaculture feeds could substantially reduce forage fish demand by 2030. Nat Food 1, 301–308 (2020). https://doi.org/10.1038/s43016-020-0078-x

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