NORWAY – A coalition of 39 organizations, including prominent groups from West Africa and Norway, is urging the Norwegian government to prohibit its farmed salmon producers from utilizing fish oil sourced from West Africa. 

The coalition’s open letter features signatories from West Africa’s small-scale fishing sector and international organizations like Friends of the Earth Norway, the Environmental Protection Association of Norway, and Oceana. Other notable supporters include Feedback, the Environmental Justice Foundation, and Seas at Risk.

The campaign argues that sourcing fish oil from West Africa exacerbates food insecurity in the region. The coalition claims that a significant portion of the fish oil used in Norwegian salmon farming is imported from this area, which is already struggling with severe food shortages. 

According to their estimates, the fish used to produce this oil could have provided up to four million people in West Africa with a year’s supply of fish sufficient to meet their nutritional needs.

These organizations are collectively calling on Norway’s leadership to curb the country’s expansion of the salmon farming industry and ensure complete transparency throughout corporate supply chains. 

They advocate for an immediate ban on sourcing fish oil from regions suffering from food insecurity, insisting that Norwegian companies’ practices align with the country’s development policies.

The letter and Feedback’s report, “Blue Empire,” emphasize the role of four major aquafeed companies—Mowi, Skretting, Cargill, and BioMar—in supplying nearly all the feed used in Norwegian salmon farming.

The campaigners claim that these companies source fish oil from Northwest Africa. However, responses from the feed giants provide a nuanced perspective.

A spokesperson from Mowi highlighted the company’s commitment to sustainable sourcing, stating, “Feed is crucial for ensuring optimal fish health and performance, and it significantly contributes to the environmental footprint of salmon farming. To maintain leadership in environmental responsibility, Mowi prioritizes sourcing sustainable feed ingredients and strives to utilize feed as efficiently as possible at its fish farms.

Mowi noted the challenges posed by geopolitical situations, such as the war in Ukraine, which reduced the availability of certain ingredients in 2022 and 2023. 

Despite these challenges, Mowi ensured that all Mauritania purchases complied with its sustainable salmon feed policy and were audited by third parties to prevent local protein deficiencies. 

The company provides full traceability of all feed ingredients and does not source raw materials from illegal, unregulated, or unreported (IUU) catches or endangered species.

Leif Kjetil Skjæveland, Sustainability and Public Affairs Manager at Skretting Norway confirmed that the company has a procurement policy to buy marine raw materials only from certified sources or those involved in a Fisheries Improvement Project (FIP). 

He stated that while Skretting Norway previously sourced fish oil from a public FIP in Mauritania, it did not purchase any from Africa in 2023 and 2024. Skjæveland argued that pulling out of these regions, as suggested by NGOs, would harm local efforts towards sustainable fisheries.

Cargill and BioMar also aligned with the International Fishmeal and Fish Oil Organization (IFFO) on responsible sourcing. The IFFO emphasized the importance of certification and FIPs in responsibly sourcing fishmeal and fish oil. 

They highlighted that the Global Roundtable on Marine Ingredients, established in 2021, addresses food security concerns through market pressure, dialogue, and third-party audits.

The IFFO underscored the nutritional benefits of fishmeal and fish oil, particularly during the early stages of a salmon’s life. These nutrients are essential for preventing diseases, reducing the need for antibiotics, and decreasing mortality. 

The organization cited studies supporting these benefits and noted that salmon farming is already a net-positive fish production process.

Mowi elaborated on the industry’s evolution, incorporating other protein and lipid sources into salmon feed. The company supports developing and testing new raw materials, including omega-3-rich oils and sustainable protein sources, to balance the production of healthy meals with environmental responsibility.

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