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Combating overfishing with algae

Thirty percent of global fish stocks are considered to be overfished. One reason is that large proportions of the catch are further processed into fish food to be used in aquaculture. Veramaris, a joint venture between Evonik and DSM, should help save the processing of 1.2 million metric tons of fish into fish food annually.

Every year 16 million metric tons of anchovies and other small fish are fished from the sea. These do not land up on our dinner tables, however, but are processed into fish oil and fishmeal. Fish oil is required as feed particularly in the aquaculture of salmon.

The components in fish oil that make it so important in salmon farming are EPA (eicosapentaenoic acid) and DHA (docosahexaenoic acid). These are omega-3 fatty acids that are essential for salmon. Omega-3 fatty acids originate from marine algae. Microorganisms such as krill feed on the algae and are themselves in turn eaten by fish, so that EPA and DHA end up in fish oil.

The algal oil that has been developed by Evonik in a joint venture with the Dutch company DSM shortens the pathway to the omega-3 fatty acids. Researchers in the two companies have found a way to obtain EPA and DHA directly from the algae, so that the intervening steps via krill and fish are no longer necessary.

The first plant for algal oil production recently celebrated its topping-out ceremony, and Evonik and DSM plan to produce in commercial quantities from 2019 onward. Production capacity at the production sites in Nebraska will cover about 15 percent of the total EPA and DHA required annually by the global salmon farming industry. As the equivalent of 1.2 million metric tons of fish annually, this will make an important contribution to protecting our oceans.