Fish Waste for Profit
‘Fish Waste for Profit’, the inaugural Icelandic Fisheries Conference, was held at the Smárinn convention centre in Kópavogur, on the outskirts of Reykjavik, on 25 September. It took place during the first day of the Icelandic Fisheries Exhibition (IceFish), organised by Mercator Media.
The conference programme was put together by Mercator in conjunction with Matís, an Icelandic government owned, but independent, company which carries out research and development in the food and biotechnology industries.
Matís provided three speakers for the conference including Sigurjón Arason, the company’s chief engineer, who has spent more than 30 years in the Icelandic fisheries industry studying the full utilisation of cod and other fish species.
Sigurjón Arason followed keynote speaker Thor Sigfusson in the opening session of the conference. Thor Sigfusson, managing director of the Iceland Ocean Cluster, told delegates that the fillet and liver were the only parts of cod which were generally utilised and therefore a high proportion of the fish was usually discarded.
He said there was potential for dried cod products, and in Iceland the dried head and bones were exported and there was better use made of the liver than in other countries. This increased the average value of a 5kg cod from $15 to $20.
He then showed a slide of different products which could be made from cod using the skin and internal organs as well as the flesh. If all these products were manufactured this pushed the average value for a 5kg cod up to $50-60.
The challenge was to get more out of cod, Thor Sigfusson said, and described how the skin could be used for pet food and was then worth $10-15 per kg, to obtain collagen when it was worth $35 per kg, fish leather when it was worth $50 per kg, and bandages from fish leather when it was worth $150 per kg.
Cod needs two livers not one because of the products which can be made from it, Sigurjón Arason told the conference delegates. Canned liver and cod liver oil fetched high prices, he said.
Sigurjón Arason was adamant that the parts of the cod which weren’t used should not be labelled as ‘waste’, because they represented ‘possibilities’. He was not keen on the word ‘by-products’ either which were ‘raw materials’.
He said that the fillet accounted for only 43% of a cod and there were endless possibilities for the utilisation of the remainder. However, in order to make full use of what was now discarded at sea, storage facilities on board fishing vessels needed to be increased and the ‘waste’ cooled properly and brought ashore in good condition.
Haukur Mar Gestsson, economist, Iceland Ocean Cluster, started session one of the conference – wild demersal species, especially cod – by describing how value creation has increased in Iceland and comparing this with other major cod catching nations such as Norway and Alaska.
Iceland’s strength was that it utilises the fish well, he said, pointing out that its use of raw material from cod by-products had increased by a factor of 32 between 1992 and 2012.
A McKinsey report comparing the utilisation of cod in Iceland and Norway in 2009 showed that the yield in Iceland was 57%, whereas in Norway it was 41%. In addition the value per kg caught in Iceland was €2.3 ($2.9), while in Norway it was €1.7 ($2.1).
In Alaska, the catch of Pacific cod was 81,000 tonnes in 2013 as against 100,000 tonnes of Atlantic cod in Iceland. However, 30% of the Alaskan catch was exported whole to China for re-processing and the total export value was $250 million, whereas because of the range of products exported from Iceland, the value there was $690 million.
Sigrún Mjöll Halldórsdóttir, project manager, Division of Biotechnology and Biomolecules of Matis, discussed the bioactive substances that can be found in marine by-products. It is now possible to produce extremely valuable products from this material that not so long ago was considered to be waste and discarded, he said.
There is a wide variety of very diverse compounds which can be derived from seafood that are beneficial to human health. For example polyphenols derived from seaweed have strong antioxidant properties, as do polysaccarides from sea cucumber.
Of the valuable compounds which can be derived from cod, collagen obtained from the skin is ‘the glue which holds the body together’. The omega-3 content of the oil is well known, but proteins and peptides, and the enzymes from the guts, are less so. Sigrún Mjöll Halldórsdóttir said that fish protein which acts to lower blood pressure is worth $1,000 per kg.
Not all the compounds which can be derived from cod are used in food or medical products. Fish leather was developed some years ago and is even used in fashion garments in Iceland, while cosmetics are another high profile use.
Guðbjörg Heiða Guðmundsdóttir, project manager, Marel, reiterated that the skin was more valuable than the loin of cod, but pointed out that the skin only accounted for 3% of the fish. Marel was concentrating on obtaining more value from the ‘main product’, i.e. the fillet, and there had been an improvement in its yield from 58% in the 1980s to 80% in 2006.
She described how Marel had started its involvement in fish processing from the development of electronic weighing in 1983 to its launch this year of the FleXicut where each fillet was cut with a water jet ‘in the best possible way’. The equipment uses x-rays to determine exactly where the bones are situated before cutting commences.
Guðbjörg Heiða Guðmundsdóttir admitted that automation cost a lot to install, but said it would reshape the future of the whitefish industry by reducing labour needs and improving product handling, yields and added value.
Processing the whole fish provides full access to the raw material, but processors need the technology to handle this process, she said. Also, there needs to be a high enough processing volume to make the production of by-products feasible.
Hólmfríður Sveinsdóttir, managing director of IceProtein, stressed that Icelandic cod fishermen needed to make the most of their catch, but there was a lack of space and manpower for preserving by-products on board fishing vessels. He said there was a need for technologies that maintained good quality by-products and simple processes to produce bulk products for further refining.
Cod liver was the best example of a by-product for which ice and space was reserved on board the catching vessel, but the price was good so it was worth doing. However, Icelandic fishermen were switching from freezing at sea to land based processing, and this would provide space for other by-products to be stored and brought ashore.
Hólmfríður Sveinsdóttir said that 60% of the cod was discarded by freezing at sea vessels. This included the stomach and gut from which enzymes could be obtained. In Norway silage was used on board for preserving the entrails and then enzymes could be obtained from the silage.
The second session of the conference dealt with pelagic fish species. Magnea G Karlsdóttir of the Food Science, Value Chain & Processing Division of Matís, told delegates that pelagic species were very important for Iceland, accounting for 29% of the country’s export value in 2012.
From 1999, there has been a steady increase in the volume being used for human consumption (salted, frozen-at-sea and frozen ashore) – it quadrupled from 2001 to 2012 – as the volume being reduced to fishmeal and oil declined.
Mackerel was new to Icelandic waters, but was now an important fishery with 154,000 tonnes caught last year. As the fat content of the fish increases, so it becomes more difficult to deliver a quality product, Magnea G Karlsdóttir said.
However, techniques were improving so that a higher proportion of the catch was going to direct human consumption. In 2009 only 20% of the catch was being frozen for direct human consumption, whereas in 2013 this had increased to 95%.
Super cooling down to –1.8 deg C significantly increased the quality of the fish, and frozen storage temperatures of –22 deg C or below increased the time at which it could be held in cold storage.
There is no ice used to store pelagic species on board catching vessels, instead the fishermen use refrigerated sea water, so why not do the same for cod and eliminate the use of ice which damages the fish?
If cod, and salmon, have been super chilled then the fish remain in rigor for longer which makes them better for filleting, Ingólfur Árnason said. In fact it might be possible to ensure that fish are only coming out of rigor when reaching the consumer, in which case he or she will be getting a ‘sterile’ product.
Not surprisingly microbiological results are better after super chilling.
About a third of all fishmeal and fish oil is produced from fish by-products, Ola Flesland, R&D group manager of the TripleNine group told delegates and it is predicted this will rise to 50% by 2020.
The major use of fishmeal is as a feed ingredient, and the challenge is to convert more fish by-products into products for direct human consumption. For fish oil there has already been a change from feed to food and 20% of production, or approximately 200,000 tons, is now used for food or omega-3 supplements.
Fish protein hydrolsates, both crude and as bioactive peptides, seem to have great potential in human food and supplements, Ola Flesland said. They could act to lower blood pressure, regulate blood sugar, slow down sarcopenia (muscle wastage) and suppress appetite. They also have anti-oxidative, anti-cancer, and antimicrobal and antiviral activities.
In general, he said, there is a need for high value proteins within the food industry. Fish protein may be a supplement to soy and whey in some food applications and in sports nutrition. Fish protein hydrolysate powder with more than 90% protein may be of interest as an ingredient in ‘high protein foods’.
Cultivated fish species
Session three of the conference dealt with cultivated fish species. Roger Richardsen, senior advisor, SINTEF Fisheries and Aquaculture, talked about the marine ingredients industry in Norway, with particular emphasis on farmed salmon.
Norway’s marine ingredients industry has grown substantially during the past decade, he said, and now represents a NOK8-9 billion ($1.2-1.4 billion) industry with high importance for the seafood business in Norway.
The omega-3 industry is the biggest one in the sector, accounting for 38% of the total turnover, he said, but added that ‘the hype has now stabilised’. Macro algae from kelp harvested from along the coast is important, and there was a long tradition of using silage in Norway which ‘would pick up anything not otherwise utilised’.
After losses in the first few years, krill oil was ‘coming like a rocket’ and Norwegian companies in that segment were starting to earn money now.
However, the fastest growing segment in the marine ingrediemts sector, Roger Richardsen said, was the development of salmon oil into feed, human nutrition, cosmetics and pharmaceutical applications. Salmon farming was vital for the supply of raw material for the development of the marine ingredients sector.
According to Fridik Sigurdsson, partner in INAQ AS, aquaculture was the biggest source of marine by-products in Norway. Basically blood was the only part of a farmed salmon which was not used, he said, and bearing in mind the number of salmon produced in Norway, it was a sizeable resource (1-3 million salmon produced 30,000 tonnes of blood).
There was a great deal of material discarded when catching whitefish (demersal species) Fridik Sigurdsson said – there was room on board for the fish, but not for the guts – and these by-products were not utilised. It was not compulsory in Norway to bring by-products into port, but everything brought ashore was utilised.
There is increased interest in Norway on total utilisation of the fish caught and harvested, and approximately 300,000 tonnes of material were available for the production of marine by-products. However, to succeed and increase the utilisation of marine by-products in Norway, it was essential to ensure high quality from catching/harvesting to processing and that cost effective and correct production/processing methods were used.
In addition, it was essential to research potential markets to determine what was required.
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