World Oceans Day 8 June 2020 - Innovation for a Sustainable Ocean and the role of aquaculture

The World Economic Forum held Virtual Ocean Dialogues from June 1 - 5, 2020. Libby Woodhatch, Executive Chair of MarinTrust, was invited to speak at one of the sessions, on June 3, focusing on innovative aquaculture. https://www.weforum.org/events/virtual-ocean-dialogues-2020

According to the FAO, aquaculture is probably the fastest growing food-producing sector globally, accounting for nearly 50 percent of the world's fish that is used for food (expected to represent 62% in 2030). To ensure that this growth is sustainable requires both collaboration and innovation throughout the aquaculture value chain, from the capture of fish which may be used in feed, right up to the point the fish is sold to consumers.

In the past this focus has been very much on the sustainability of the fish itself (for a long time it felt like the world cared more about the fish than the people), and while the benefit of well managed sustainable aquaculture, and the capture fisheries that may be required to support them, contribute directly to SDG 14, “Life Below Water”, aquaculture is also key to contributing to those Sustainable Development Goals that focus on the people involved in producing and consuming the fish.  Responsible and innovative aquaculture can also contribute to the SDGs that address hunger, health and well-being, decent work and economic growth, responsible consumption, and production.

Innovating through collaboration

However, to maximise this contribution, we require innovative approaches. Innovation doesn’t necessarily mean high tech or large scale, we as an industry and as stakeholders can be innovative in our everyday approaches by fine tuning what we do and where innovation works best is when a collaborative approach is taken, where each part of the aquaculture value chain speak to each other and works together to maximise both efficiencies and impacts.

MarinTrust, whose mission is to improve the global responsibility of the sourcing and production of marine ingredients (the collective term for fish meal and fish oil), is an independent 3rd party business-to-business standard for the production of marine ingredients.

Responsible fishmeal sourcing and manufacturing of fishmeal and fish oil is vital since they are the foundation of formulated feeds and the nutritional benchmark for other ingredients. Business strategies have led to evolving rates of inclusion of fishmeal and fish oil in aquafeed, but the bottom line is that they provide an unmatched nutritional package to farmed seafood (not only through long chain omega 3s but also through vitamins A, B and D, calcium and phosphorus, as well as a great source of minerals), which are then passed on to humans.

The Programme was developed as a result of collaboration and innovation following growing concern over the sustainability of global fisheries and the fight against Illegal, Unreported and Unregulated fishing (IUU), which shaped an increasing need for the industry as a whole to demonstrate commitment towards responsible sourcing and production of marine ingredients.

Like all credible 3rd part certifications, our programme constantly evolves to ensure it remains relevant, whilst balancing accessibility with credibility and as full ISEAL members we ensure our programme is compliant to ISEAL’s codes and we are also ISO compliant too.

The most recent addition to the programme is the MarinTrust Improver Programme, which was developed to allow fisheries that do not currently meet the full MarinTrust requirements, to work towards approval for certification along a structured and time-bound pathway. The MarinTrust IP enables us to robustly extend our scope to those where the long-term benefits will be greater i.e. in fisheries that currently suffer form an absence of robust management. Improving these fisheries will not only benefit the marine ecosystem but provide long-term social benefits for the industry and the communities they support. This programme now has approved FIPs in Ecuador, India, Mauritania and Panama, with others working towards acceptance on to the programme.

Developing new frameworks

In terms of multispecies fisheries, we have had to take an innovative approach due to the absence of multispecies criteria to effectively assess fisheries.  As a result we have commissioned experts who have developed multispecies criteria in alignment with the APFIC (Asia Pacific Fisheries Commission) guidelines and the FAO Ecosystem Approach for Fisheries (EAF) and have been comprehensively peer reviewed to ensure a robust and credible framework. They are currently being trialled in a series of pilots, the first of which is running with the multi-stakeholder  Gulf of Thailand  FIP, enabling us to test the methodology in active fisheries so we can refine it and ultimately develop a credible and realistic set of criteria. This pilot will be considered as one of the requirements for acceptance onto the MarinTrust Improver Programme and over time work towards full MarinTrust approval.

By improving these fisheries it is likely that greater volumes of raw material will be able to go for Direct Human Consumption, with the spin off for the fish meal sector that higher quality by products will be available from the fish once it has been processed.

Strengthening the circular economy

By-products remain an area of innovation for us. Already a significant proportion (one third) of fishmeal and fish oil annually is manufactured from fisheries by-products. The potential for increasing the proportion of marine ingredients from these sources is substantial, especially in Asia. Working with the pet food sector, feed producers and NGOs, MarinTrust is in the process of establishing an “Innovation Group” to maximise the use of by-products and minimise wastage of valuable marine ingredients. This group will look at enhancing the reputation of by products, which are often misunderstood, despite being a key component in high value pet foods. Increasing their perceived “value” (and I don’t mean financial, though that would be nice!) will help us in our work to gather improved data, in particular Key Data Elements (KDEs), to provide the value chain with assurances around traceability that are in a common format.

I want to stress that innovation should also consider how the aquaculture sector can be explained to a wider audience and in particular the sourcing and production of feed, which is often overlooked or misunderstood – a “blind spot” in a very complex value chain. At MarinTrust we are exploring where we can better integrate our approaches with other standards and how we can better communicate about our respective programme strengths, so that we can provide clearer, more concise information to buyers, governments, producers, NGOs and potentially consumers.

To help honour, protect and conserve the ocean on World Oceans Day and every day, we need to ensure we underpin all we do with innovation, collaboration and communication.

Libby Woodhatch

MarinTrust Executive Chair