Member AUM
$70 trillion

Phase 2 Outcomes

Future growth of the salmon farming industry is likely to be constrained if it relies solely on fish-based ingredients and soy protein. Forecasted farmed salmon growth rates in 2024 are already well below the approximate 5% annual growth projected by the FAO. The poorest Peruvian anchovy quota in decades in 2023 has already created operational challenges for companies. Given the burden on global fisheries, alternative ingredients will be needed if fish farming companies want to increase their production. 

Lack of Focus on Biodiversity

Aquaculture companies are increasingly focused on reducing greenhouse gas emissions, and disclosures around emissions, but not focused on other risks related to biodiversity. While isolated initiatives are gaining visibility, the seven companies selected for this engagement lack a holistic, nature-based approach to reducing their impacts and dependencies on wild-caught fish. 

The trade-offs between a feed basket’s carbon and biodiversity footprints are highly nuanced and complex. There is encouragement in the fact that many companies have shown greater flexibility in relation to reporting and disclosure – for example, by moving from annual reports to online sustainability libraries that allow for quicker progress on transparency issues. 

Boat fishing nets

The Salmon Farming Industry Relies on Certifications

Aquaculture companies heavily rely on certifications for their practices or feed sourcing – such as the Aquaculture Stewardship Council (ASC) or Marine Stewardship Council (MSC) certifications – to reassure investors of their sustainability credentials. However, companies often make claims that the certification bodies themselves do not endorse. For example, the standards in which certification is rooted do not necessarily cover every aspect of the biodiversity impacts associated with fishing methods, such as trawling, dredging and lost gear management.

An Increased Proportion of Trimmings Is Not the Response to Create Sustainable Feed

Trimmings – also referred to as co-products – are viable offcuts (e.g. entrails, fins, scales, heads, tails) from other fish-processing activities. They can be retrieved and ground into fishmeal to be used in animal and aquaculture feed to reduce the burden on virgin meal from wild stocks. All salmon farming companies selected for this engagement use a proportion of trimmings in their salmon feed.  

Better circularity from the fishing industry could help increase the availability of trimmings, i.e. if trimmings generated on factory trawlers could be stabilised, stored and landed rather than pitched overboard – as they usually are now. However, the potential volumes of trimmings available from the fishing sector are finite and are determined by fishing quotas set by various countries.  

Overall, current volumes of trimmings can only take the aquaculture industry so far. Since almost over 90% of wild fish stocks are now fully exploited or overfished, and with only 13% of the Earth’s oceans still considered wild, aquaculture companies cannot rely on trimmings alone to claim being ‘sustainable’.


Alternative Feed Ingredients are Necessary

The growth of the salmon farming industry is likely to be constrained if the sector solely relies on fish-based ingredients. More first-movers are needed to unlock the potentially pivotal market for alternative ingredients. Companies currently differ in their views on which of these ingredients might be most suitable for salmon feed, only agreeing that algal oil is a useful substitute for fish oil as it is also rich in omega-3. This lack of consensus from companies on is creating a muddled market signal which is likely to slow the transition towards more sustainable feed.