Green (or blue) finance could help fish farmers make the transition from fish-based feed to more sustainable alternatives, according to a report from not-for-profit think tank Planet Tracker.
Feed represents the aquaculture sector’s biggest operational cost, and it is also one of the sector’s most pressing sustainability issues, with concerns that the traditional sources of fishmeal for feed are being over-fished.
The main plant-based alternative, soy-based feed, also has its problems, the report (“Bonds for Ponds” from Planet Tracker argues. Soy production, if it is not managed sustainably, can lead to deforestation in countries such as Brazil. To feed the salmon industry in Norway alone, the land-use footprint for imported soy protein concentrate is equal to the size of Luxembourg, the report says. It adds that leading fish farmers have acknowledged the problem and have committed to sourcing feed from sustainable sources, but this is not an easy transition.
Planet Tracker argues that “green bonds” (also known as “blue bonds” when they relate to the ocean economy) could be used more widely by the aquaculture sector to finance the development of sustainable alternative feed ingredients, like blackfly larvae, algae, single-cell proteins or genetically modified plants. Research in this field is fairly limited, the report says, and it states: “The key reason behind the slow transition is that these novel solutions do not currently exist at scale, in part due to the difficulty of securing the necessary capital for upfront research and development to identify the most effective production pathways.”
A green or blue bond is a debt instrument issued by governments, development banks or others to raise capital from investors to finance projects with positive environmental, economic and climate benefits. Green bond issues have risen rapidly in recent years, the report says, climbing to $262 billion worldwide in 2019.
During 2020 two leading producers, Mowi and Grieg, issued green bonds, raising €200 million and NOK 1 billion respectively. Planet Tracker says more producers could benefit by following suit, and argues that green bonds can help cut the cost of capital, encourage innovation and enhance a company’s environmental credentials.
Planet Tracker concludes: “With key players along the entire aquaculture supply chain already making the transition to sustainable feed – and financing costs likely to decrease as green bond issuance in the sector becomes more commonplace – the pace of this transition should be accelerated.”