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New Report Assesses Bulk Outlets for Discards

04 April 2013

UK - A new Seafish report shows that the food chain should be the first choice for discarded fish that could be landed under a future discard ban, but when that is not practicable then utilisation for fishmeal or fish oil reduction for animal feed, is currently the next best option.

Other bulk outlets, such as composting and anaerobic digestion, are also considered in the report.

The report is the result of a study commissioned by the Sea Fish Industry Authority (Seafish) and conducted by the Centre for Environment, Fisheries and Aquaculture Science (CEFAS) to identify commercially available bulk uses or outlets for discards that may be landed, and then assess the feasibility of accessing these bulk outlets. The study was funded by the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA).

Seafish Project Manager, Michaela Archer, explains: "Under the Common Fisheries Policy reform proposals we know that a discard ban is going to be introduced. This will be a major change for the UK fishing industry. Whilst the main objective must be to avoid capturing unwanted fish in the first place, under the ban fishermen will be required to land all catches of regulated fish stocks and find outlets for it. In the event that a proportion of the discards can't be used directly in the food chain, alternatives have to be identified."

The feasibility study surveyed nine main outlets in the UK interested in utilising discards as raw materials to process into animal, pet and aqua feed; compost and organic fertilizer; frozen bait; and other products such as renewable energy generation. Most outlets stated they accepted raw material in all formats including whole fish, trimmings, ensiled or fresh, and that the majority already had sufficient processing capacity to receive discards.

Estimates of discard quantities from English fleets, based on data from scientific observers, showed that most of the commercial outlets were not located close to the main landing ports where the discards would be likely come ashore. Most outlets however, have extensive transport links that they would use which would enable them to cover even the remote ports. Others would consider setting up facilities at the major ports where most material would be landed if the quantities available were sufficient.

"There are uncertainties about the quantities of discards that may be available but certainly from a financial perspective any discards that are landed should ideally be utilised as food fish, and there are other initiatives to create markets for these currently underutilised species," said Michaela.

"However this may not always be possible. A lot of this fish cannot be sold on the human consumption market due to weak or absent demand, or because the fish are under below a legal minimum size to be sold as food, so they will have to go elsewhere. This study has shown that whilst there is enough interest in UK registered commercial bulk outlets dealing with Category 3 animal by-products to utilise these fish discards, the financial returns to the catching sector would be low (less than £150 per tonne) when compared to the human food chain. There would also be significant issues to address such as setting up storage facilities in different regions.

"Whilst the Common Fisheries Policy (CFP) reform discussions are still ongoing, this report shows that there are some potential opportunities for utilising the unavoidable catches of fish which are not saleable for human consumption, but brought ashore as a result of the proposed EU discard ban. Now that these options have been highlighted and assessed the next step will be for fishermen and the relevant industry sectors to work together to ensure this fish can be put to the most productive use," Michaela concluded.

Further Reading

You can view the full report by clicking here.

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