The Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA) has approved the use of mechanically extracted camelina oil as a feed ingredient for farmed salmon and trout, the Dalhousie University (DU) reported on 21 April.

The application for the approval was submitted by genomics technology R&D corporation Genome Atlantic, which recently completed a study on camelina oil as fish feed with the help of Atlantic Canada Opportunities Agency’s (ACOA) Atlantic Innovation Fund.

The study found that camelina was an “excellent match” to the fatty acid composition required in the diets of farmed fish, DU said.

“Genome Atlantic and its partners have transformed a tiny seed into a big opportunity, creating an innovative, alternative solution with long-term benefits to industry,” said Navdeep Bains, Minister of Innovation, Science and Economic Development and the minister responsible for ACOA.

False flax, or Camelina sativa by its scientific name, is an oilseed plant rich in omega 3, protein and antioxidants, which is used to produce vegetable oil for human consumption and as an ingredient in some animal feeds.

DU said fish feed manufacturers had explored the use of crop-based oilseeds, such as camelina, as viable and cost-efficient substitutes for wild-sourced fish oils and proteins currently used in fish feeds.

Camelina oil had characteristics that made it a particularly promising alternative in fish diets, according to aquaculture scientist Chris Parrish of Memorial University, one of the principal researchers of the Genome Atlantic study.

“Among the oils that can be used to replace fish oil in aquafeeds, camelina is one of the few with high levels of omega 3 fatty acids. While these acids are different from those present in fish oils, they enhance the ability of fish to synthesise the healthful long-chain omega 3 fatty acids that are needed for their optimal growth,” Parrish said.

“This, in turn, ensures a healthful fillet for human consumers,” he added.

Claude Caldwell of DU, another lead scientist in the study, said that using wild-sourced fish to feed farmed fish was not sustainable ecologically or economically and due to camelina being sufficiently nutritious to replace all fish oil in feeds, it could be a “viable alternative”.

According to Caldwell, aquaculture companies spend 50-70% of their budges on feed, so camelina could translate to significant savings for the industry.

While the CFIA approval only covered camelina oil, Caldwell and his team at DU were currently conducting feeding trials for the agency on camelina meal.

“Camelina meal can’t entirely replace fish meal used in fish feeds, but it could replace some of that meal,” he said.