Fishmeal is made from processed forage fish, including anchovies, herring, and menhaden. These are known as “reduction fisheries” because the catch is reduced into fishmeal. Twenty million tons of fish are harvested for fishmeal each year, with over 70% destined for aquaculture. Approximately 4-5 tons of fish are required to produce 1 ton of fishmeal. Fishmeal, a premium ingredient for animal feed, is an excellent source of protein, essential amino acids, omega-3 fatty acids, vitamins and minerals. Farmed fish feed can contain up to 60% fishmeal, depending on species, size and life stage.
Fishmeal prices currently range from $1000/ton to over $1400/ton, varying with protein content, freshness and location. Over the past twenty-five years, the price of fishmeal has risen sharply due to increasing demand and shrinking, volatile supply. The El Nino of 2014/2015 devastated the Peruvian anchovy harvest, driving fishmeal prices over $2300/ton. This fishery has since recovered, but climate change and other factors will keep the fishmeal supply and price quite volatile for the foreseeable future.
Because fishmeal is made from wild fish, it can contain harmful substances, including radioactive isotopes, PCBs, dioxins, and mercury. Fishmeal is also subject to spoilage, with preservatives typically added to extend shelf life.