Experts: Seafood processors literally throwing money away

Much of the money that could be made from fish landings is wasted on a lack of communication between different industries.

As industries compete to get better value and monetize their product, fishermen need to collaborate to make the most of fish landings, an executive told attendees at Marel’s WhiteFish ShowHow in Copenhagen.

“There needs to be cooperation from fishermen,” said Thor Sigfusson, founder of Iceland Ocean Cluster, during his presentation at the show.

Iceland Ocean Cluster was created to connect different groups within the industry in order to maximize the value of the country's marine products.

With the available equipment and machinery, the industry should be able to process every part of the raw material for different markets, but according to Sigfusson, there is little interest from the harvesting side to further utilize fish catches.

During another presentation at the event, fishermen were also called to handle the fish adequately throughout the processing phase, in order to maintain its quality and get high prices for every product for which it will be used.

“Catch and on-board handling is the first link in the value chain,” said Magnea Karlsdottir, analyst at Matis. “It is important that the fish is well handled and delivered in the right conditions to the next step of the chain if we don’t want it to lose its value.”

From byproducts to main products

There is an increasing demand in a variety of products based on fish protein. The most profitable industries include pharma, healthfood, cosmetics, beverage and functional food, Icelandic Ocean Cluster’s Sigfusson explained.

Undervalued cod intestines, rich in enzymes, are normally discarded, but could reach a value of $10 (€9.40) per pound depending on its quality if sold to the fish feed market.

Fish skin, which makes up 5 percent of the fish weight and is normally thrown away, can be used for bulk collagen for the nutraceutical market, for some $7 (€6.60) per pound. Furthermore, when sold as amino collagen to the beauty industry, it can reach a value of $75 (€70.80) per pound.

The fabric industry pays $120 (€113.30) per pound to use fish skin for clothing items, highlighting the raw material for its traceable, sustainable cachet.

In addition, when used in medicine to heal chronic wounds, for instance, the product can gain as much as $2,000 (€1,888) per pound.

There are many initiatives realizing the benefits of fisheries products and the profit margins are there, Sigfusson said.

However, there is lack of cooperation between different segments in the value chain and not much understanding of how much money is wasted from unused material, he added.

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