Fish in: Fish Out (FIFO) ratios for the conversion of wild feed to farmed fish, including salmon

  • FIFO (Fish in: Fish out) for the conversion of wild feed fish to farmed salmon is 1:1.22 (2015 ratio),  showing that farmed salmon now produce globally more consumable protein than is used in feed.

  • For all fed aquaculture, the FIFO is 0.22:1 (2015), or 1:4.55 (i.e. every kilogram of wild fish supports the production of 4.55kg of farmed fish)

  • Declining FIFOs reflect the use of fishmeal and fish oil as strategic ingredients at key points in aquaculture production cycles with a trend towards optimising their nutritional contributions.

FIFOs (Fish In:Fish Out ratios) have been examined over time as a way to look at the performance of aquaculture in relation to the wild fish that are utilized in the feed. Although there are some issues with the applicability of the concept, FIFO is still regarded by some as a benchmark of progress by the sector in relation to its environmental performance. With this in mind, IFFO has updated the FIFO estimates using the data we have available for 2015, following the same protocol that was applied to determine the FIFO figures for 2000 and 2010.

How FIFO ratios are calculated

The way that IFFO calculates FIFO ratios is based on the following:

  • Use of FAO production data to provide estimates for aquaculture production tonnages by species groups;
  • Standard yield figures for fishmeal (22.5%) and fish oil (4.8%) applied across all raw materials in production;
  • Estimates for industry use of byproduct in fishmeal and fish oil production are applied (currently at 33%);
  • Application of industry-wide feed inclusion levels for fishmeal and fish oil, feed conversion rates (FCR), and regional proportional fed volumes estimates based on expert opinion;
  • A correction for fishmeal and fish oil volumes assuming marine ingredients operate within a global industry where the redirection of products to meet market needs occurs (removes the risk of double-counting).

For individual species groups, the total amounts of fishmeal and fish oil are calculated based on the required feed volumes, in turn, based on FCR estimates.  These figures are extrapolated to whole fish equivalents for raw material, based on the yield figures.  A conversion factor is then applied to the raw material figures to account for the byproduct volume used in production, reflecting the reality in the sector.  The species groups are sorted against fishmeal and fish oil use, in order to allow for differences in inclusion rates in the feeds of different groups (e.g. salmonids use more fish oil, shrimps use more fishmeal).

We see in general that fed aquaculture species are showing a reduction in the FIFO calculation.  This, of course, is not unexpected as the inclusion rates for fishmeal and fish oil have been declining as more aquafeed volume is produced against a background of finite annual fishmeal and fish oil supply. The overall fed aquaculture figure shows a marked decrease to 0.22, essentially meaning that for every 0.22kg of whole wild fish used in fishmeal production, a kilo of farmed fish is produced. In other words, for every 1 kg of wild fish used 4.5 kg of farmed fish is produced. Of particular note is the figure for salmonids, which for 2015 is seen to be below 1.0, i.e. the salmonid feed industry supports the production of more farmed fish than it uses as feed fish, which appears to be the first time this has been recorded.

There is one exception to the trend in the 2015 figures, where crustaceans (i.e. farmed shrimps) are similar to the 2010 figures. This may be readily explained by the impact of the disease problems in the sector, reducing yield and affecting FCRs, set against a fishmeal inclusion rate that has declined only slightly between 2010 and 2015 when viewed across the industry.

On the whole, this is a very positive message about the contribution that marine ingredients make to global protein production. The fishmeal industry supports the production of a significantly greater volume of protein for humanity that would be supplied merely through the direct consumption of the fish used as raw material in the production process.

 

In summary, the key points on 2015 FIFO ratios are:

  1. FIFO (Fish in: Fish out) for the conversion of wild feed fish to farmed salmon is 1:1.22 (2015 ratio),  showing that farmed salmon now produce globally more consumable protein than is used in feed
  2. For all fed aquaculture, the FIFO is 0.22:1 (2015), or 1:4.55 (i.e. every kilogram of wild fish supports the production of 4.55kg of farmed fish)
  3. Declining FIFOs reflect the use of fishmeal and fish oil as strategic ingredients at key points in aquaculture production cycles with a trend towards optimising their nutritional contributions.

It has been asserted, and widely disseminated in the media and conference platforms, that five, or even more, kilos of wild feed/industrial fish are harvested to produce, via fishmeal and fish oil in aquafeed, just one kilo of farmed salmon. This is often expressed as a Fish In: Fish Out (FIFO) ratio of 5:1.

This ratio probably entered common parlance from academic papers, notably those of Tacon and Metian (2008)i  – which put forward a FIFO of 4.9:1 for farmed salmon, and Naylor et al. (2009)ii  – who used 5:1.

Against a background of concern about overfishing and how to feed a growing world population, using five kilos of fish to produce one kilo of fish seems obviously wasteful and inefficient. Critics usually go on to insist that fishing to produce fishmeal and oil for aquaculture or land animal feed is simply not acceptable in terms of resource use and should be banned or severely curtailed.

In short, this 5 to 1 assertion damages the public, commercial and political acceptance of the use of fishmeal and fish oil in aquafeed. How can their use be responsible and sustainable if that is the ratio?

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