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They buy fish meal and fish oil from West Africa

International marine biologists criticize companies for buying fish meal and fish oil from West Africa. They contribute to overfishing and food insecurity for poor West Africans, they say. “We are working on sustainable procurement”, is the response.
The fish oil and fish meal industry will ruin the stocks of sardinella in West Africa, marine biologists say.

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Some of the world’s largest companies within fish oil, fish meal and fish feed are located in Denmark. This makes Denmark a large consumer of fish meal and fish oil, which is used for animal feed, especially for fish. A smaller part of fish oil is being sold as a health supplement for Danes. 

The companies buy large quantities from the US, Peru, Iceland and Norway, which are among the largest exporters to Denmark. According to numbers from the Danish Fishery Agency, Morocco and Mauritania are seventh on the list of countries who last year exported fish meal and fish oil to Denmark. 

FAKTA

The fish meal industry in Morocco and Mauritania has grown extensively the past couple of years. But when fish from West Africa are made into fish meal and oil for other fish, fish prices increase, and the fishstocks are being overfished, which is are damaging to food security, critics say.

A survey

We’ve asked six danish companies that imported fish meal and fish oil from Mauritania and Morocco from 2017-2019, what they have done to ensure sustainable procurement.

TripleNine Group, Pelagia and FF Skagen confirm that they are buying fish meal and fish oil from Morocco and Mauritania:

CEO of Pelagia, Egil Magne, says, that Pelagia have traded with Mauritania for 10 years, but he won’t disclose their suppliers or the volume of the quantities they have bought. 

“I find it hard to believe that increased fishing for the use of fish meal and fish oil will affect food security for Mauritanias’ population”, he says and elaborates that Pelagia will “cut off companies if they have any suspicion of illegal fishing or other intolerant activities”.   

TripleNine Group call themselves, “Europe’s largest and one of the world’s largest producers of fish meal and fish oil”. CEO, Jes Bjerregaard, writes in an email to Danwatch:

“In 2019, we bought 600 tons of certified fish meal from Morocco. In general, we are careful with only buying from suppliers, who are certified and operates sustainably”. 

FF Skagens CEO, Johannes Palsson writes in an email that the company in the period of 2017-2019 got “quite a volume from Morocco and Mauritania”: 

“The most of the import was certified and came from the filet industry. We have been told that Mauritania is on its way to becoming certified with the intent to improve the future of fishing”, Johannes Palsson writes. 

They do not wish to inform of their suppliers

The fish feed producer Biomar imports from West Africa, and Assistant Director for the EMEA division in Biomar, Ole Christensen, informs in an email, that “information about commodities is found on our website, but we do not wish to disclose information on individual suppliers”. 

From the Ocean Disclosure Project Database it is shown that Biomar bought sardinella from Gambia, Mauritania and Senegal in 2018. 

The company ED&F Man Terminals do not wish to disclose their suppliers, but an acces to documents through the Ministry of Food show, that ED&F Man Terminals have imported fish oil for human consumption from both Morocco and Mauritania from 2017-2019. 

Sustainable alternatives on its way

EUFishmeal and Marine Ingredient Denmark are respectively the European and the Danish marine branch organisation for fish meal producers, and Anne Mette Bæk is the CEO of both organisations. 

She points out that the industry is already working on sustainable solutions. Today, the amount of fish meal in fish feed is about 30 percent opposed to 70 percent in the 1990’s. As an alternative to using the whole fish in the production of fish meal and fish oil, the industry now buy cut offs from filet factories, which means head, tale and fish bones, which can be used for fish feed. 

“Last year around 15 percent of fish meal and fish oil came from cut offs”, Anne Mette Bæk writes in an email. 

In addition, import of fish meal and fish oil from West Africa is limited, she writes. 

“In both Mauritania and Morocco certification schemes are used, and they are in the process of developing Fisheries Improvement Programme”. 

Fisheries Improvement Programme (FIP) is the first step towards being certified as an sustainable fishery under the Marine Stewardship Council, also known as the MSC-label. 

At MSC in London, Henry Appleton says, that there currently are no MSC certified fishing in Mauritania and Morocco.

According to Daniel Pauly, a marine biologist and professor at University of British Columbia in Canada, those certifications are not worth much to West Africans. 

“Certifications do not ensure food security. The fish meal industry will destroy the sardinella population in the region, but before that happens, it will have reduced the local consumption of fish and thereby affect livelihoods and food security for the population in West Africa”, says Daniel Pauly.  

 

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