Life Below Water
Almost three quarters of the planet’s surface are covered by water: from the smallest pond to the vastest ocean. The world's oceans play a special role in the ecosystem of our planet: they produce oxygen and also act as a carbon sink. However, the “ocean” ecosystem is under threat from many sides – litter, pollution, and overfishing.As an important source of protein, fish products are an enormous market. Fishing is the means of existence for more than ten percent of the world’s population. Many of these people live in developing nations (source: German Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development).
At present, the livelihood of many fishing families is threatened. The variety of species in the oceans and fish stocks are both declining dramatically. According to a study by the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (The State of World Fisheries and Aquaculture 2016), 90 percent of global fish stocks are already in a critical state. This is due to the increasing demand for fish products, which rose from 20 million tons in 1950 to 167 million tons in 2014. During this time, per capita consumption increased from 5 to approx. 20 kg and this is predicted to rise further.
Since marine catch has been stagnating since the 1980s, this increase is mainly attributed to aquaculture. Currently, this makes up almost 50 percent of fish production. Experts estimate that this will increase to more than 60 percent by 2030. The use of antibiotics and the overfertilization by feed residues and feces could be significantly reduced by vaccination, improved feed and more efficient feeding techniques. This holds for those regions, where state-of-the-art aquaculture is practiced. The use of fish meal and fish oil in aquafeed, however, still implies a high dependency on marine resources. Reducing this dependency is crucial to making aquaculture more sustainable.
Evonik produces amino acids that are added to aquafeed and allow a reduction in the amount of fish meal. This means that more plant-based protein sources can be used. Improved feed conversion minimizes excretions, which in turn helps reduce the burden on the oceans. Use of antibiotics can also be reduced through a more balanced nutrition for fishes.A dipeptide developed by Evonik and used as a feed additive improves the efficiency and sustainability of breeding shrimp and other crustaceans. They have a completely different feeding behavior and digestive system from fish. The specially developed dipeptide is not washed out of the feed as quickly and is broken down only in the digestive system of the shrimp.
Another contribution towards reducing overfishing is Evonik’s successful partnership with Royal DSM to produce omega-3 fatty acids. The two companies have developed a process to produce omega-3 fatty acids from natural, non-marine sources – using algae with the help of biotechnological processes. Applications includde salmon aquacultures and pet food. DSM and Evonik will produce their omega-3 fatty acids at the US site in Blair (Nebraska). The plant, which is currently being constructed, is scheduled to start production in 2019.