Recovery is the name of the game
Monday,15 August,2011 14:06:23
I recently learned of a new seafood waste processing plant that will be constructed in Sitka, Alaska. The Anchorage Daily News reported that the Sitka City Assembly authorized the sale of 26,250 square feet at the Sawmill Cove Industrial Park to the Alaska Industrial Development and Export Authority (AIDEA) to build a $8 million processing plant in conjunction with a private firm, Sitka Meal, Oil & Gelatin Co. that will produce fish meal, fish oil and chondroitin.
While I completely applaud this effort to make use of our valuable seafood proteins, the energy needs associated with these types of manufacturing processes take it out of the realm of feasibility for many parts of Western Alaska. For instance, in Naknek, which hosts the bulk of the salmon processing plants in the Bristol Bay region, the Kilowatt hour rate was recently raised twice in the past year. Without the advantage afforded to residential power users through the Power Cost Equalization program, commercial users are stuck with a rate that makes this type of byproduct processing economically infeasible.
However, although fish meal and fish oil manufacturing may be an unattainable dream for seafood processors, this doesn’t diminish the possibility of using seafood wastes for other purposes, such as agriculture. There is a host of literature out there on this topic, and the application of fish wastes for agricultural purposes is gaining wide worldwide acceptance. With impending food shortages predicted by many leading economists, the need for improved soil fertility and bio-intensive farming efforts are going to become that much more important in the upcoming decades.
Other low-costs methods for increased utilization of seafood products is through enhanced recovery efforts, such as harvesting the meat off of the backbones, and using salmon heads for dog food. Additionally, many “old-timers” in Alaska really enjoy the bellies of the salmon, which often get thrown away in high volume processing plants. If these belly parts can be recovered and either frozen or smoked, many Alaska Native elders would be very appreciative to have this precious food. One of the favorite ways to enjoy salmon bellies are by salting and pickling them. My grandmother shared some salmon bellies that I shared with her in Anchorage at the elders’ home there and made many elders very happy. With the bellies, heads, and backbone meat recovered, that pretty much just leaves the salmon backbones and the entrails. Bones are an excellent source of calcium and other micronutrients that are highly beneficial for soil.
The bones can either be dried, ground and mixed into the soul as a soil additive, or simply mixed into the soil, and left to break down slowly. The phosphorous and calcium from the fish bones will provide a slow and continual source of these micronutrients to your soil over many years. The entrails are full of bacteria, and will break down very quickly in soil, but must be composted with the correct amount of carbon material. Carbon sources can include shredded cardboard (run through a chipper-shredder), leaves, wood chips (although these take a long time to break down), or shredded newspaper. Be careful with the inks in newsprint, and make sure that they are soy-based, if possible.
In a perfect world, we would be processing all of our available seafood resource in Alaska. However, until our electrical rates become more affordable, we may have to opt for the low-cost methods of 100% seafood utilization. I am glad that Sitka got their seafood waste processing plant, and I hope to see more of these types of recovery efforts around the State.
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