Fish intended for direct human consumption is often processed in a way that makes the eating experience easier and faster for the consumer. That processing gives rise to by-products such as heads, entrails, bones, skins, tails, etc.
All these by-products are considered a valuable raw material from which fishmeal and fish oil can be produced and can come from wild-caught fish or aquaculture processing.
In terms of reducing such by-products into valuable marine ingredients, some fishing vessels are even equipped to retain or process by-products on board, and shore-based facilities have developed fast and efficient collection methods to ensure optimum quality in their manufactured meals and oils.
As reflected in the latest report The State of World Fisheries and Aquaculture (SOFIA, hereinafter), the FAO estimates that the total world capture fisheries are close to 100 million tons per year. These catch levels have been relatively stable since the late 1980s, primarily due to growing awareness of the need for sustainable fishing. According to the figures presented in the SOFIA report, the percentage of the capture fisheries that was used for direct human consumption in 2018 was approximately 75 million tonnes and about 15 million tonnes of the remaining capture fish was used as feedstock to produce marine ingredients. Additionally to capture fisheries, the aquaculture industry is responsible for an impressive growth in the supply of fish for human consumption, producing around 82 million tonnes of fish in 2018.
When we analyse fishmeal and fish oil separately, we find that the world production of fishmeal from by-products represents 29.8% while the production of fish oil from by-products represents 51% of the total production of fish oil.
Although these numbers tell a promising story, there is still a large percentage of the by-product of fish for human consumption that is wasted instead of being converted into high-value products that contribute to the supply of nutrient-rich marine food.
In addition to this, global fish production is expected to continue to grow, mainly due to growth in aquaculture fish production. It goes without saying that the increase in aquaculture production will also guarantee a growing potential supply of raw material to produce these marine ingredients.
It is essential for our sustainable livelihood to encourage as much as possible the continuous development and optimization of the collection and processing of this invaluable source of raw material.