First outcomes from Nourishing Billions project on repurposing seafood loss and waste

We are delighted to release two reports following Phase I of our work under the Nourishing Billion’s pillar looking at how to repurpose loss and waste from processing seafood.

Report one: Maximizing seafood by-product utilization towards eliminating waste; A Namibian pilot study

This project addressed how to use 100% of all fish caught or farmed, proposing that this is an ethical imperative. It explored how to ensure nutrition is efficiently and effectively captured and repurposed in economically viable and market- appropriate ways; or, where nutrition is not possible, to explore other appropriate uses for seafood by-products such as for medical benefit.

Friends of Ocean Action worked with Namibian stakeholders on an initial case study that brought together policymakers, business leaders, academics and civil society organisations. The project sought to learn from these stakeholders and encourage continued efforts to create an aligned approach to maximizing by-product utilization, thereby capturing more nutrition and reducing seafood waste.

The work focused on reframing the narrative from one of ‘loss and waste’ to one of ‘by- or co- products’, thus reframing these by-products as opportunities. The project created replicable model(s) that can be used by seafood businesses around the world to support maximum utilization of by-products, by adopting whole fish approaches from harvest through to processing on land. This shifting paradigm of whole fish accountability builds on a growing narrative in many parts of the world.

It became apparent that it was critical to better understand processing taking place at sea, not only in terms of the by-product and nutrition lost at that point post capture, but because of its impact on what is possible on land. Friends of Ocean Action commissioned a piece of research to start to look at this area of seafood processing. The second report shares the finding of that research.

Report two: Global at-sea fish processing

This report aims to:

  • Provide an overview of processing of seafood at sea to understanding current levels of loss (volume and nutrition).
  • Better understand by-products that are retained and utilized by some vessels.
  • Summarize the challenges for greater by-product retention, including identifying current knowledge gaps

It became apparent that publicly available data is limited in order to quantify the extent of at-sea by-products. However, by using different datasets covering global fish catch, types of by-products and processing yields, catch areas (regions/flag states), and types of fishing vessels, it has been possible to make broad statements and estimates. However, these are only indicative and there are major knowledge gaps to consider before estimates can be refined.

Larger vessels (>35 m LOA) which are processing and freezing at sea are the most likely to be retaining by-products and using these for human consumption/products, or for feed ingredients. Limitations to by-product retention include on-board storage, crew time to process, product quality and safety, and low market value in most parts of the world.

There are successful examples for maximizing the catch usage. These are a result of long-term investment and collaboration between different parts of the seafood industry, technology providers, business innovators, science and research, and investors. They are largely aspirational options for many other regions, but sharing that knowledge and understanding is instrumental to ensuring the success of future initiatives.

The report notes that filling knowledge gaps on current practices is key, while collaboration and learning from countries who are leading in this field is important. As with on-land processing opportunities, understanding the by-product qualities and availability, identifying markets and addressing research that may be needed will be important to increasing by-product capture and repurposing from post-harvest processing at-sea.