Traditionally, unwanted species caught during fishing, were often thrown back over the railing. This wasteful practice negatively affected the sustainable exploitation of marine biological resources, marine ecosystems and the financial viability of fisheries. With the goal of eliminating discards by encouraging fishers to fish more selectively and to avoid unwanted catch, the EU therefore has agreed a landing obligation. This means that fishers henceforth must land all their catches – including those of low commercial value. While the benefits for biodiversity and fishing operations are there to testify the soundness of the approach, another problem arose as a consequence: how to turn these often low-value unwanted catches into high-value products appreciated by consumers.
It was against this backdrop that the NOVELFISH project came to life. Under the motto “New life for unwanted catches”, NOVELFISH aims at addressing the unwanted catch issue while at the same time promoting sustainable fishing. Turning low-value fish into high-value fish products yields higher incomes for the fishers and simultaneously offers a way not to waste marine resources.
The project team was set up by the University of Cádiz in cooperation with the Aquaculture Technological Centre (CTAQUA), which has expertise in using waste and by-products from aquaculture processing, and the Spanish Technological Platform for Fishing and Aquaculture (PTEPA), which promotes innovation and technological development in the fisheries and aquaculture sectors, including processing and marketing.
NOVELFISH started with the analysis and quantification of by-catches in both the Atlantic and the Mediterranean, from the biggest Spanish fish markets (lonjas). The project team looked at parameters like the fishing gear used, seasonality, weight and species. Then they developed a detailed classification of the various species’ culinary and nutritional values: two species of low commercial value from the Atlantic and 22 promising species in the Mediterranean were identified as possible candidates. The selected species are characterised by high levels of proteins and minerals, along with safety and hygiene profiles that make them suitable for human consumption.
Armed with this comprehensive overview, the team chose the most suitable species for producing products like emulsions, pâtés and fish sauces. The products were made at laboratory in a relatively simple process, where every part of the fish is used: for instance, the fish sauces are obtained through a fermentation process and subsequent filtration. The solids remaining after filtration are then used to make pâtés and marine flavourings. In other words, processing with zero waste. Five types of sauces were made by fermentation and three types of pâté were made from the solid residue left after the sauces are filtered. Eventually, three different types of flavourings with very singular marine characteristics were produced.
In addition to the innovative and tasty seafood products, this project has resulted in an interesting collection of data on bycatches. This additional knowledge could well contribute to reducing the impacts of fishing on the marine environment and improving the sharing of knowledge between scientists and the fishing sector.
The project shows that many unwanted catches can be marketed with added value through a process that is profitable, relatively simple and generates zero waste. The objective is to encourage the landing and commercialization of these species by creating a win-win situation for fishers and processing companies alike. Fishers will be able to improve their economic situation, while processing companies will have new raw materials to process and new products to introduce to the market. Consumers gain new ways to add flavour to their dishes, and everyone benefits from increased sustainability of our fishing industry.
NOVELFISH underpins both the fishing sector and the processing industry, leading to more efficient use of fishing resources and it adding value to the lesser-known species. It is a reference in technological development, innovation and efficiency for future collaborations working along similar lines. Dealing with all three dimensions of sustainability: social, economic and environmental, the project has received EU support via the European Maritime and Fisheries Fund.
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October is a very important month for biodiversity preservation, climate change remediation, marine research and sustainable blue economy. Find out more information on the latest EU action to face those global challenges, in the Arctic and elsewhere and check out the October edition of Euronews Ocean episode ”Coral Reefs”.
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