Krill oil in demand

A Chinese krill trawler stern section anchored in Montevideo port, Uruguay, in early 2014. Montevideo port is a hub for several krill operations which include Norwegian and Korean trawlers. A Chinese krill trawler stern section anchored in Montevideo port, Uruguay, in early 2014. Montevideo port is a hub for several krill operations which include Norwegian and Korean trawlers.
Industry Database

There are eight Chinese-flagged factory trawlers registered to fish for krill (Euphausia superba, Dana) in the CCAMLR (Commission for the Conservation of Antarctic Marine Living Resources) approved South Antarctic Ocean region during the 2014-2015 fishing season, although all eight may not finally reach there.

Their medium-term goal is to produce at least 3,000 tonnes of krill oil plus 10,000 tonnes of dried krill meal for use as feed for fish farms, and also for human food applications such as pharma-grade krill oil and as a protein source for various products during the next two years.

“The main target is products for human consumption, more specifically krill oil,” said Dimitri Sclabos, general manager of Tharos, a Chilean consultancy which has been advising on the utilisation of krill for more than 25 years.

China has a burgeoning middle to upper socio-economic class of consumers and it is the younger element of these consumers who regard krill oil as being beneficial to their health. The same is true in many other Asian and Western countries too, of course, which is why Chinese companies will also be targeting consumers in Europe, the USA and Australia.

Although several Chinese companies have become involved in the marketing of krill oil in various formats, plus other krill products, there are not that many currently involved in krill fishing and at-sea processing in the South Antarctic. And the ones which are involved are not yet at the level to compete with krill processors from other countries, such as Norway, in efficiency and end product quality.

“Chinese onboard krill processing was an area lacking efficient and high-quality driven engineering solutions,” Mr Sclabos said. “Quality of end products was not the key driver of their business model, so they were unable to become leaders in the complex and costly South Antarctic krill business.

“However, new Chinese players have brought updated technologies, and most importantly, the drive to achieve efficient operations and the highest possible quality of end products.”

Extraction
Tharos, which has invented and developed an internationally patented revolutionary process for the at-sea extraction of phospholipids rich krill oil, designed the business model and processing concept for the Chinese trawler companies now involved in the krill fishery.

Mr Sclabos believes that Tharos’ at-sea oil extraction method gives companies using it a definite edge over their competitors. “Unlike all other extraction methods currently being used, the Tharos principle doesn’t use solvents and therefore leaves no residue in the final product,” he said. 

“Our process is chemical free, while all current processes used to extract phospholipids rich krill oil are done on land and use solvents.

“Several operators are working round the clock to come up with a solution that mimics Tharos’ solvent-free and highly cost efficient process. However, being a patent protected method, we bring a safe solution to operators currently discussing ways of collaboration with us.”

China first sent trawlers to fish for krill in the South Atlantic Ocean (Antarctic seas) about five years ago. It has gradually been building its presence there and it is only a matter of time before the country becomes the largest player in the South Antarctic krill fishery, Mr Sclabos said.

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