The International Fishmeal and Fish Oil Organisation (IFFO) has criticised Norwegian broadcaster NRK for its recent programme about factories in Peru.
In a response to the Consumer Inspector documentary on NRK 1, representatives state the report was “unbalanced and misleading”:
"The programme failed to show the huge strides that the industry has made in introducing responsible practice in sourcing its raw material, safe manufacture of fish oil, and reducing environmental impact; and the commitments to improve further.
The International Fishmeal and Fish Oil Organisation (IFFO) members produce around 60% of world production and 80% of fishmeal and fish oil traded worldwide. IFFO said that, during the making of the programme, it provided NRK with up-to-date data and facts on the issues addressed but these, and an offer to be interviewed for the programme, were ignored.
“While there are examples of bad practice within the wider industry, IFFO members are committed to responsible production of fish oil and best practice in all aspects of manufacture. This is demonstrated by the widespread uptake of the IFFO Responsible Supply scheme in Peru, an independently audited certification programme for fishmeal and fish oil introduced by IFFO in 2009,” said Andrew Mallison, Director General of IFFO, in a recent press statement.
“This standard covers the quality control in the factories as well as ensuring that the fishery providing the raw material meets the United Nations FAO Code of Conduct for Responsible Fisheries. It also ensures procedures are in place to avoid the use of illegal, unreported or unregulated fish in the production of fish oil and fishmeal”.
“Our members in Peru have led the world in rapid uptake of the IFFO RS certification programme. By September of this year 89% of fishmeal and fish oil produced annually in Peru by IFFO members was coming from factories which had achieved certification,” he said.
Effluent and emission regulation
While no-one is denying that problems exist, the film failed to adequately reflect the considerable progress made already and plans in place to further reduce environmental impact.
Fishmeal and fish oil plants in Peru are required by law to have a treatment plant for their effluents, including the pumping water used to unload fish from the boats. Laws placing strict limits on all effluents were introduced in April 2008, requiring significant investment.
In May 2009 further Maximum Permitted Levels were set for airborne emissions in line with international norms. Equally, the law decrees that caustic soda used in cleaning must be neutralised before it is released. There is also an economic incentive to clean waste water, recovering increasingly valuable oil and protein.
In 2004, seven fishmeal and fish oil companies operating in Pisco invested US$ 7 million in a combined effluent treatment project, cleaned waste water being discharged into the sea via a pipeline 13 km long and 50 meters deep. The programme’s allegation that Pisco Bay is heavily polluted is misleading, conditions are improving and a scallop aquaculture sector is now flourishing.
Regrettably, Mr Trapunsky’s interview was edited to omit the fact that all effluent water is cleaned before discharge through the offshore pipe, giving an impression convenient to the programme makers that the problems were just being pushed further offshore.
A similar project is under way in Chimbote involving all the local seafood industry – while this will take time to complete it is hoped this will deliver similar environmental benefits to those now being seen in Pisco.
IFFO said that the sustainability of Peru’s fisheries and marine ecosystem was ranked best in the world in a study by from the University of British Columbia in 2008, in contrast to the programme’s claim that anchovy is overfished.
The Government of Peru has made great advances in recent years to assess stock biomass, set appropriate fishing regulations and monitor fish harvests to ensure compliance. All industrial landings are subject to 24 hours/day and 7 days/week monitoring by independent inspectors. Fishing is only permitted outside spawning seasons and is stopped if high levels of juveniles are present in the catch.
“This year the biomass of the fast reproducing anchovy has been assessed to have increased to 10.6 million tonnes and the government has set a cautious quota that only allows 25% of the adult spawning biomass to be caught” said IFFO’s Technical Director, Dr Andrew Jackson.
The programme featured emotive footage of children with skin conditions and claims concerning respiratory diseases. It was notable that the doctor assessing the child, speaking in Spanish, made no mention of the condition being related to fish oil production although this was clearly the impression the programme makers wanted to give.
Chimbote is the largest city in the Ancash region and a recent epidemiological report confirmed that, on a national scale, Ancash region is in the lowest 25% for respiratory diseases, ranking 22nd of 28.
There is still work to be done but issues are being addressed by government, scientists and the industry working together,” said Mallison. “Peru is a world leader in fisheries management and in the certification of responsible practice in the manufacture of fishmeal and fish oil.”
“The fishmeal and fish oil industry provides 200,000 jobs, exported fish oil complies with tough EU food and feed safety regulations and the new government is committed to improve social inclusion and support local communities. The work on reducing emissions is ongoing and we are reflecting the expectations of international customers by updating our Responsible Supply standard to include requirements on the control of emissions.”
“It is extremely unfortunate and unfair to both our members and the consumers of fish oil that the programme failed to give credit for the progress achieved and planned and instead sought to scare consumers away, just at a time when local industry is investing millions of dollars in improvements” said Mallison. “Safe, natural fish oil from Peru has, and will have, a huge part to play in preventative health care, notably heart health and mental health, and is available from certified producers committed to responsible practice.”"
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