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Are we ready to eat the whole fish?

As a DNV employee I was assigned full time to the RUBIN Foundation for 20 years – the last 13 years as the general manager.  The main focus of RUBIN has been to increase the utilization of marine by-products – the part of the fish that we normally don´t eat in the western countries, parts like heads, guts, fish skin, backbones, etc. Utilization of by-products and by-catch is sustainable business. These materials represent valuable resources in a world seeking more proteins for feeding an increasing population.

RUBIN has been owned by the organizations in the seafood industry in Norway, and financed by the Ministry of Fisheries and Coastal Affairs and the Norwegian Seafood Research Fund. Now RUBIN is history, and challenging new tasks in Business Assurance, including sustainable fisheries, takes up my time. However, the sustainability approach in RUBIN can be of great relevance for the DNV business further on.

Are you ready to eat the whole fish?

Big challenges: Turning by-products into sustainable business implies big challenges. But we are also looking into big opportunities, since we are talking about almost one million tons of by-products in Norway, representing about 30% of the total catch. The by-products contain proteins and oils needed by humans and animals. Today more than 75 % is used, but still almost 200 000 tonnes are dumped in the sea. In addition to by-products, there are globally huge volumes of discarded by-catch from the fisheries, estimated by FAO (The Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations) to about 7 mill tonnes per year.

The catch of wild fish is hovering around 90 mill tonnes, which is unlikely to increase due to limited fish stocks and a considerable overfishing. The demand for marine resources for food and feed is increasing, so the high amount of discards is there for a huge paradox.

A change for the better: There are two ways to decrease this waste of resources: 1) stricter regulations and 2) adaptation of new technology and seeking market opportunities. RUBIN focused mainly on the technology- and market side to make profitable business from the by-products.  RUBINs role was to be a national driving force and coordinator for the increased utilization and value creation of by-products, including initiating and funding market work and R&D projects in the industry and research institutes. However, removing regulatory bottle necks did also have a priority. The projects and publications are listed at www.rubin.no.

It has been very interesting to follow the development of the by-product sector in Norway all these years, and there has been a great change. In 1992 the by-product volume was about 300 000 tonnes, and 190 000 tonnes were utilized. In 2010 more than 900 000 tonnes of by-products were generated and 700 000 tonnes were utilized. The value creation has in the same period increased from 0,4 to 2,4 billion NOK.

Increasing the value – Moving from feed to food: Most of the utilized by-products are still used in the feed sector, but increasing volumes go to food applications in Asia and Africa and for production of high priced ingredients for human applications; like omega- 3 in functional foods and dietary supplements, protein hydrolysates for bioactive applications, medical food, etc.  The potential economic value of Norwegian by-products is roughly estimated to be 5-10 billion NOK (0,7-1,3 bill. €) per year. In a global setting, including both by-products and by-catch, the potential is formidable.

DNV can play a role for additional improvements: Utilization of by-products and by-catch is sustainable business. Although RUBINs work is finalized, DNV can contribute to the further development. Much work still needs to be done in order to release the value creation potential. There is a need for more R&D, investment willingness, improved leadership and structural changes, as well as systematic approach, creativity, stubbornness and some madness. Sustainability is a focused issue for DNV, and DNV can be a contributor based on increasing needs for advisory services, documentation, standardization and certification.

Further info about our services on sustainable seafood can be found here: http://www.dnvba.com/Global/food-beverage/Seafood/Pages/default.aspx 

The final report from RUBIN in Norwegian can be accessed at: http://rubin.no/images/files/documents/RUBIN_Sluttrapport_nett.pdf

Sigrun Bekkevold, Sustainability Risk Management in DNVBA



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