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What are the Environmental Effects of Fish Products?

25 October 2013

ICELAND - Traceability and the environmental impact of fish products are the main themes of the EU sponsored WhiteFish project.

Icelandic research group, Matís, is participating alongside parties in Norway, Sweden, United Kingdom and the Netherlands.

The project is focused on developing methods to evaluate the environmental effects of fish produce, from the time of fishing until consumption.

The environmental analysis is based on a Life Cycle Analysis (LCA) which results in it extending to all areas of the value chain.

Therefore, it factors in components such as the state of the fish stocks, the effects of fishing techniques, energy consumption in processing and transport, waste management throughout the whole process, and the elimination or recycling of packaging, etc.

“Judging from the experience we have had from the eco-labelling of sea products, this sort of information is most important for wholesalers and retailers. Most consumers are not prepared to delve into these issues, but on the other hand, they trust that the party selling the seafood is offering a product with an acceptable environmental track record,” said Jónas Rúnar Viðarsson, Research Group Leader at Matís.

“Over the last few semesters, wild fish from the North-Atlantic Ocean have been facing increased market competition from less expensive, farmed fish from Asia and Africa, such as pangasius and tilapia. With the WhiteFish-project, we hope to be able to show that when all things are considered, our fish has less environmental impact than its competitors.”

Fresh fillets from Iceland are used for the development of the project and also, the same process is examined for fresh whole fish from Iceland which is transported in containers to Grimsby, UK where it is then processed. The third research topic is sea-frozen fish from Norway and finally, pre-packaged fishmeals produced in Sweden.

“From this project a side-project has developed, supported by the Nordic Innovation Centre, in which we are looking at what information the market is demanding, i.e. the retailers and the consumers, in terms of both content and form. These are questions such as whether or not consumers wish to have accessible information regarding fishing methods and the state of the fish stock, how detailed the content descriptions need to be, or if it is better to develop a computerized coding system in which the consumers can obtain further information on-line and track the process themselves, etc,” said Jónas Rúnar.

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