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Our Fish, Notre Poisson

Feedback travelled to Senegal to rendezvous with our partners and meet with communities impacted by the fishmeal and fish oil industry Our visit to senegal New blogpost

Tackling industrial fishmeal and fish oil production in West Africa

Fish. Understood to be an essential part of a healthy diet and a proven staple food to many people around the world. Including the communities on the West African Coast line. Zooming in on that fact, and with the information we have gathered through our campaign Fishy Business, Feedback has taken to tackling a persistent problem in the way we farm the fish that end up on our plates: fish meal and fish oil (FMFO). It is used in feed for farm fish and livestock, made of whole fish caught in the waters off of Mauritania, Senegal and The Gambia.

What's the problem?

Each year, around one-fifth of the world’s annual marine catch is used to produce FMFO, the bulk of which goes to producing feed for the rapidly growing aquaculture industry. To satisfy its growing appetite for fish, the international FMFO industry has expanded into West Africa, focusing on Mauritania where, in 2020, fish oil exports surpassed 75,000 tonnes and fishmeal reached 121,000 tonnes, putting the country into the top 10 producers worldwide. Expansion has also been seen into the fishing nations of Senegal and The Gambia. In the past decade, the number of FMFO factories in West Africa has effectively quintupled.

Over half a million tonnes of fish – which could feed over 33 million people in the region – are instead extracted from the ocean and converted into FMFO to feed farmed fish and livestock each year. Europe and Norway are the major importers of fish oil and Asia consumes fishmeal. Virtually all FMFO produced in West Africa is exported for the benefit of other sectors. We’ve seen that in Mauritania, 90% of the fish used are fresh, whole fish. In some other FMFO source countries, the fish are not widely consumed locally (like Peruvian anchoveta or European sprats), but this is not the case in countries like Senegal, where it is forbidden for factories to use fresh fish, yet they continue to do so.

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What's the solution?

Implemented together with West African partners Regional Network of West African Marine Protected Areas (RAMPAO), Greenpeace Africa, the West African Association for the Development of Artisanal Fisheries (WADAF), the Sub-Regional Fisheries Commission (SRFC), the Regional Partnership for Marine and Coastal Conservation in West Africa (PRCM), and Lancaster University, and in close collaboration with grassroots organisations representing coastal communities across the region, we want to force change in this industry, and those related to it, by turning this issue into one of key concern for a broad group of civil society actors to campaign jointly in West Africa and in Europe.

Ultimately, we want to see better regulation of the industry in the region, and an end to the use of fish fit for human consumption by the industry. As part of this, we will work to increase pressure on companies involved in or related to this sector to hold aquafeed companies who source from West Africa, and aquaculture companies who source from these, accountable for their sustainability promises.

This work is made possible through the support of Oceans 5, a sponsored project of Rockefeller Philanthropy Advisors.

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