Entrepreneurs getting creative with seafood byproducts

Global fisheries are missing out on millions of dollars in profits from seafood byproducts – including fish oil, fishmeal and lesser-used parts of the fish such as the skin and intestines.

According to a recent study from the Marine Ingredients Organization (IFFO) and the University of Stirling Institute of Aquaculture (in Stirling, United Kingdom) found that, even though there is increasing availability of raw material from aquaculture byproducts, there is significant underutilization of by-products from both wild fisheries and aquaculture.

Fisheries could also be using their by-products for cosmetics, clothing leather, supplements and other products that are more profitable than fishmeal, Thor Sigfusson, founder of the Iceland Ocean Cluster, told SeafoodSource.

Nearly 20 million tons of raw material is used annually for the production of fishmeal and fish oil globally, according to the model used by the University of Stirling researchers. However, only around 5.7 million tons of by-products are currently processed to produce fishmeal and fish oil. An additional 11.7 million tons produced in processing plants which are currently not collected for marine ingredient production.

“If all fish were processed and all the byproduct collected, it is estimated that globally there would be around 36 million tons of raw material available, producing about 9.5 million tons of fishmeal and 1.5 million tons of fish oil,” according to the University of Stirling/IFFO report.

“The main constraints are either economic or logistic,” IFFO director general Andrew Mallison told SeafoodSource. “However, as the prices of fishmeal and fish oil have risen and the costs of waste disposal have grown, the economic argument is more favorable to reduction of fisheries and aquaculture byproduct into marine ingredients.”

There are some logistic and technical problems in transporting byproducts from their source to a processing facility, Mallison said.

“Quick processing of the raw material is important to reduce the risk of spoilage and optimize quality, but there is certainly room to increase the amount of raw material recovered from current levels,” he said.

Meanwhile, Sigfusson is educating other fisheries about profitability from byproducts realized by the Iceland Ocean Cluster. The cluster is made up of nearly 70 seafood companies, which are located in a 30,000-square-foot building in Reykjavik, Sigfusson said. The businesses, which include fish processors, ocean technology firms and biotechnology companies, work together to grow each other’s businesses.

Cod byproducts are being used for a variety of different consumer goods, including lucrative cod oil supplements, in order to generate new profitability for the fishery in Iceland. Companies in the cluster are making cosmetics from cod enzymes and cod skin is being made into clothing leather and banadages.

Sigfusson and the Iceland Ocean Cluster would like to expand the successful Iceland model to five U.S. states and other countries in the future. “We have been able to create over 10 new startups in less than three years. Our research has indicated a global interest and need for this approach,” Sigfusson said.

In the United States, the New England Ocean Cluster is already in place in Maine, while there are discussions with fisheries in Massachusetts, Louisiana, Washington and Alaska to create similar clusters.

On a recent visit to Louisiana’s wild fisheries, Sigfusson explained how the fisheries could boost their profitability from byproducts by thinking beyond fishmeal, such as turning tuna skins into tuna leather.

“There are people looking into creating new products of value from shrimp shells. We would like to see these products get into the protein level. There is more value than if it is just feeds for animals,” Sigfusson said.


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