Dutch health company Royal DSM and German chemicals producer Evonik are planning to set up a joint venture to produce omega-3 fatty acid products from marine algae for animal nutrition.

For the first time in the world, the companies’ method would enable the production of omega-3 acids without using wild caught fish, the companies said in a statement on 8 March.

Evonik and DSM’s alternative omega-3 source, aimed initially at salmon fisheries and the pet food industry, would be the first to offer both eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA), important fatty acids that are not naturally produced by the body.

The companies would hold a 50/50 share in the joint venture, which will be called Veramaris and be based in the Netherlands, and they would also co-own its planned production facility to be built on an existing Evonik site and expected to come online in 2019.

The joint venture followed the companies’ July 2015 joint development agreement, which had already seen them successfully produce pilot-scale quantities of the algal omega-3 oil at DSM’s facility in Kingstree, South Carolina, USA.

By replacing fish-based oils in salmon feed, the companies said the fish-in-fish-out ratio of salmon fisheries would be “reduced significantly”.

“The algal oil … means that the vision of salmon farming without using fish-based resources is – for the first time – becoming realistic,” Evonik and DSM said in the statement.

“With currently 17% of the world’s wild caught fish being used to produce fish oil for aquaculture, we believe this is unsustainable. By producing omega 3 with EPA and DHA from algae, we will enable the aquaculture industry to grow sustainably,” Herman Betten, global director of external affairs at Royal DSM told NutritionInsight.

According to the companies, global fish oil production was at about 1M tonnes annually, of which the aquaculture industry consumed approximately 75%, but limited wild fish stocks restricted the amount of available fish oil.

Based on a July 2016 report from UK-based seafood industry sustainability watchdog Seafish, the amount of fish oil produced per annum should remain stable at 1M tonnes until 2025.

Despite the stable production numbers, Seafish expected the amount of fish oil used in aquaculture feeds to “show a downward trend” to offset high prices, and an increasing amount of fish oils was being sold for human consumption.

DSM and Evonik were also pursuing applications of the algal oil for other aquatic and terrestrial animal species, and expected to also introduce it to pet food producers.