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Alaska Fish Factor: Fishmeal Prices Set to Increase 18 Percent in 2013

01 July 2013
 Alaska Fish Factor: Laine Welch Laine Welch has been covering news of Alaska’s seafood industry for print and broadcast since 1988. She also has worked ‘behind the counter’ in wholesale and retail seafood businesses in Alaska and Cape Cod, MA. Laine lives in Kodiak, Alaska.

US - Alaska spends more than $20 million on fish feed each year for its 35 salmon hatcheries -feed that comes primarily from anchovies caught in South America. Meanwhile Alaska seafood processing companies produce over 200,000 tons of fishmeal each year -- for customers in Asia.

Last year 33 million fish - 20 percent of the total Alaska salmon harvest - originated in hatcheries; in some years the figure has topped 30 percent. At Prince William Sound, for example, 73 percent of the salmon catch originated in local hatcheries.

The most costly part of any hatchery or farmed fish business is the feed – it represents 60 to 70 percent of production costs. The bulk of the feed is made from ground up wild fish, such as anchovies, herring or menhaden –which totaled 870 million tons in 2011, valued at $350 billion.
According to Chilean fish feed company Camanchaca, fishmeal prices are set to increase 18 percent this year to $1,750 per ton this year, an 18 percent increase.

Roughly 10 per cent of global fish catches go to fishmeal, according to the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO). It takes up to four pounds of wild fish meal to grow one pound of farmed salmon, and the industry is facing increasing criticism to find other food sources. To the rescue in the search for alternative and sustainable proteins --- insects!

Tests are showing that all kinds of insects can be an attractive option in the global search for alternative and sustainable proteins. The FAO’s Animal Feed Resources Information System, called Feedipedia, claims that the high crude fat content in black soldier flies provide ‘high value feedstuff’ for both fish and livestock. Silkworms, maggots, mealworms, termites all provide meal nutrients of varying types and degrees.

Topping the list for best insect-based fish feed is grasshoppers or locusts (acridids) of any kind. Feeding trials on certain fish species showed that diets in which 25 and 50 per cent of fishmeal was replaced with grasshopper meal produced results as good as the control diet comprising 100 per cent fishmeal. All growth parameters measured for the selected fish were higher for the feed containing grasshopper meal than for those fed with conventional feeds. The possibility of recovering chitin from the insects used for fish feed is also being explored.

Find the Insects as Animal Feed report here.

Dippin’in the Yukon- The first ever commercial salmon dip net fishery on the Lower Yukon River is a resounding success. reports that landings by about 90 fishermen are approaching 40,000 chums so far.

The use of dip nets is a new regulation passed by the state Board of Fisheries in January as a way to allow a chum fishery while protecting the Yukon’s dwindling numbers of king salmon. Over the past several years, the chum fishery has been held up due to Chinook conservation needs. The dip nets allow for the safe return of king salmon into the river; not a single king salmon has been harmed so far.

The Yukon chum run is extremely strong this summer and could top three million fish. The dip net fishermen are earning about $5,000 per week in the new fishery.

Salmon watch –Sockeye salmon are surging into rivers at Bristol Bay, where catches had topped 5 million fish; more than one million were taken in a single day. The Bay total is projected at about 17 million reds. Statewide, the total salmon catch/all species was approaching 13.5 million fish.

Salmon competition- Fresh salmon prices are up 47% from a year ago, and imports from Chile are at record levels, according to Urner Barry, the nation’s oldest market watchers since the late 1800s. Imports to the US have approached 80 million pounds of fresh Atlantic salmon fillets, an increase of roughly 21 percent and an all-time record for US salmon imports. Overall, the US salmon market has expanded significantly, with strong demand and prices, although retail prices tend to drop off a bit at this time of year.

Antacids save shellfish – The nation’s largest shellfish producer is dropping the equivalent of Tums and other antacids into its tanks to help oyster larvae build their shells. The environmental news site Grist reports that Washington-based Taylor Shellfish Company believes adding the sodium carbonates will help the oysters and other bivalves battle the corrosion caused by increased acidity in the ocean.

Marine ecologist George Waldbusser admitted it's a less-than-perfect solution, saying: “At some point they have to be able to address the bigger global CO2 problem.”

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