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Feeding Scotland's Salmon

Salmonids Nutrition Economics +1 more

Scottish salmon should look to command a premium, is what Douglas Low, Managing Director of EWOS Scotland told an audience at Aquaculture UK 2010. Charlotte Johnston, TheFishSite junior editor reports.

Giving a quick overview of the markets, Mr Low said that the UK salmon market was very similar to that of Canada's. Salmon feed volumes in the UK have remained relatively consistent over the last 10 years at about 200,000 tonnes.

On the other hand, Norway has seen rapid growth, with feed volumes more than doubling over the last 10 years, which is reflective of Norway's progress in the salmon market.

Mr Low said that for the Scottish salmon industry to expand, it must look to it's demanding markets to gain a premium, including retailers and restaurants.

The industry must also accept the materials available on the market, including vegetable oil, GM feed and land animal products (LAPS) to improve biological performance.

Douglas Low, Managing Director, EWOS

Soya and vegetable oil

In Scotland there are strict limits for the feed industry, no genetically modified feeds are allowed and in some cases no vegetable oil can be used.

Mr Low said that it was to the Scottish industry's downfall that few places are only recently accepting vegetable oil as an alternative feed.

Unlike previous years, fishmeal production in 2010 is expected to remain consistent, which will likely push prices up.

Mr Low explained that as the fishmeal price increases, the demand for alternative feed will rise. "There is a strong demand pull for vegetable based diets."

Mr Low said that the industry needs to focus on diets that grow fish effectively. Fish oil is significantly more expensive than vegetable oil.

Globally 10 per cent of salmon feed is vegetable oil (250 million tonnes), and whilst there is no consumer resistance and several advantages of using it, such as sustainability and environmental purposes, there does appear to be pockets of market resistance. In the UK only 4,500 tonnes of vegetable oil are used in fish feed.

Mr Low questioned whether Label Rouge and Organic products would remain viable in the future? Label Rouge diets compromise 45 per cent fishmeal and up to 30 per cent fish oil, with a minimum of 70 per cent marine ingredients.

Organic diets have limited baskets of materials and a high reliance on fish meal.

The UK and Norway continue to refuse to use GM soya in salmon feed. Despite this, most animal feed in the UK contains GM maize or GM soya..

Whilst there is strong market resistance to GM feed, its use in the industry may be inevitable due to the lack of availability of non GM.

Land animal products are also used widely and blood meal is legal in the UK.

However, there is some market resistance to LAPS in the UK, partly due to the BSE outbreak.

Other opportunities

New and alternative feed fisheries

Boarfish: Currently 50,000 tonnes are harvested annually. Whilst they are legal, there is not sufficient data on them which makes them unable to satisfy UK criteria on responsible fishing and sustainability.

Pearside: These are actively fished off Iceland, where 30,000 tonnes are harvested annually. They are widely distributed and there is a significant volume potential, as with other medopelagics.

However again, these do not meet the criteria for responsible fishing and sustainability.

Krill: With a biomass of 100-800 million tonnes, quota is set at 620,000 tonnes annually but catches are anything in excess of 100,000 tonnes.

Krill fisheries are currently pending marine stewardship council (MSC) accreditation although it's current use in salmon feed is limited to about 10 per cent.

Polychaetes: Mr Low said that production in the UK was growing, however before it becomes larger there are huge logistical challenges to overcome.

Reducing dependency on fishmeal

In 2002, fishmeal usage in salmon feed was 35 per cent. In 2006 the industry managed to dramatically reduce this to 20 per cent. The industry's target is 10 per cent fish meal usage in salmon diets.

Mr Low expects this will continue to decrease as fishmeal prices remain high.

Keeping a premium

Some producers may not use vegetable oil or GM products, which differentiates them from the rest of the market, this will maintain them a premium.

Therefore avoiding these products creates an opportunity, says Mr Low.

Maintaining high standards on marine ingredient sustainability will also maintain a difference. Mr Low believes that the Scottish industry is much more aware of sustainable marine ingredient sourcing than other countries.


Another feed alternative that Mr Low touched upon was using seaweed as a natural source of Bromophenols. Bromophenols are known to enhance the flavour of foods, and Mr Low believes that using blends of seaweed meals that are commercially available may change consumer perceptions as there are increased health benefits, enhanced flavouring, as well as extended shelf life through antioxidants.


Despite aquaculture opponents arguing that salmon are often dyed using synthetically produced pigments, Mr Low says that over 50 per cent of Scottish salmon are fed using a natural source pigments, including Phaffia and Paraccocus.

He believes there is an opportunity here to change consumer perceptions by promoting the use of natural source pigments.

Improving performance

Mr Low says that if performance is too be improved then feed must be tailored to match the potential of the farmer. He also suggests increasing the use of bioactive feed supplements in the diet such as nucelotides, beta glucans and M oligosaccharides - all of which would have a massive effect on growth rates.

These functional feeds, as Mr Low calls them, have specialised formulas and/ or components which give feed a desirable effect over and above their nutritional value.

Functional feeds will reduce stress, reduce the risk of disease and improve growth, says Mr Low.

Mr Low summed up by saying that producers must not sit and wait for high prices, that might never happen. "Producers must be able to make money even when the market is at rock bottom."

August 2010