Securing the aquaculture feed supply chain DNA tagging to trace feed to its source in minutes By Ulrike Hodges, Ph.D., Laurie Clotilde, Ph.D., and Anthony Zografos, Ph.D., SafeTraces. Eliminating trash fish from aquaculture feed, finite fish meal and fish oil supplies, and retailer and consumer demands for sustainable aqua feed sources â€“ these are key drivers behind the aquaculture feed industryâ€™s push to improve tracing and tracking feed across the global supply chain. Enhanced traceability is particularly important, as aquaculture is the fastest-growing food-producing industry in the world1. The origin of fishmeal is a major challenge to the sustainability of aquaculture because the fisheries used for creating feeds may be poorly managed and damaging to the marine environment. The use of trash fish (low value fish), still commonly used in much of Asia, has been a growing concern, especially with regard to the sustainability of farming practices and issues surrounding environmental degradation2. Retailers and consumers too are increasingly demanding assurance that unacceptable fish species are not entering the supply chain via fishmeal to species such as shrimp. In an effort to replace trash fish and to
progressively eliminate reliance on overharvested fisheries, the aquafeed industry is moving toward sourcing fishmeal from sustainable fisheries or farmed fish trimmings, while also looking to replace fishmeal altogether. Alternative proteins, such as grains or pulses, as well as new proteins, such as insect meal, are among the most developed options. Production of sustainable alternatives such as bacterial, algal and insect-based proteins is expected to reach about 10% of the market by 20233.
Current options to establish traceability Proving that aqua feed has been sourced sustainably, however, remains a significant challenge. The aqua feed industry employs a number of technologies, chain-of-custody traceability systems and certifications to verify whether a product has been sourced responsibly. Yet, to date, only about 5% of seafood in aquaculture is certified as sustainable4. Recent technological developments
have advanced the ability to test for the authenticity of fish, including DNA -based techniques. They are able to identify species, even those that are closely related. An emerging technology in genetics, nextgeneration sequencing (NGS) or highthroughput-sequencing, has proven successful in identifying separate species in fish feed, to test for the use of endangered species during production. While these technologies can determine the species of fish or even a mixture in feed, they are very expensive and cannot differentiate the DNA of species within a region well enough to determine the exact geographical origin5. Chain-of-custody traceability systems are used by standards to certify how seafood products pass through the various stages of a supply chain â€” from harvest of the resource to production and distribution of the finished product. In their simplest form, these systems trace a product one step up and one step down the supply chain. Certification such as BAP practices rely on these B-2-B systems to stimulate the aquaculture sector to