Half of any fish caught ends up as waste or by-product, EUMOFA study

Half of any fish caught ends up as waste or by-product, EUMOFA study

Researchers from the European Market Observatory for Fisheries and Aquaculture Products (EUMOFA) have determined that over 50 per cent of any fish caught or farmed is not consumed directly and that in the case of tuna, as much as 70 per cent of the animal ends up as waste or by-product.

According to scientists, there is more to gain from the aquatic biomass. As nutritional and pharmaceutical ingredients or cosmetic products, fish by-products and algae can generate high added value, and boost the blue bioeconomy.

The EUMOFA study, called Blue bioeconomy: situation report and perspectives, looks into the value and activities comprising the EU bioeconomy and offers an overview of the types of investments underpinning the sector, the size of demand and main players involved, future requirements, as well as public policies promoting the biotech sector.

In addition, the research notes that the amounts of biomass available from each type of resource varies widely. As a rule of thumb, more than 50 per cent of any finfish does not directly enter the human food chain and states that white fish such as cod may generate almost 60 per cent. For shellfish such as scallops, wastes are as high as 88 per cent of catches and harvests.

Dressings for human wounds from fish skin.(Photo: Sigfusson, Innovations for Optimal Utilization of GroundFish / eumofa.eu)

The exceptions might include cephalopods and “reduction fish”, of which 100 per cent is used for fishmeal and fish oil

Algae and other aquatic plants have also considerable development potential. The study shows an increasing number of SMEs developing high added value products from macro- and microalgae but indicates that EU algae production is still very small compared with the rest of the world, and the vast majority of the supply is therefore imported.

The research identifies the opportunities and challenges to create products, such as novel foods and food additives, nutraceuticals, pharmaceuticals, cosmetics, materials (e.g. clothes and construction materials) and energy.

High value added ingredients found in algae or seafood are, for example, omega-3 fatty acids, collagen, chitin, gelatin, minerals, carotenoids, enzymes, amino-acids, among others.

The scientists developing the study state that very often, the cost of development is high and the time to market long, adding that investing in R&D and innovation to make good use of seafood resources requires significant financial resources.

Nevertheless, the study confirms that this new stream of the blue bioeconomy can bring a new impetus for long-term economic growth and employment.


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