Future trends

The quantity, quality, diversity, and profitability of fishery by-products are likely to increase. The factors driving this are many. First, fish and shellfish offer unique flavors and nutrients that are in increasing demand, while wild stocks decrease or - at best - remain stable. As the catches diminish, the need to use all of the catch will become more evident. Second, regulatory pressure will encourage greater utilization. Most of these regulations will be environmental, for instance, banning excessive amounts of fish wastes being dumped at sea, pumped into inlets and harbors, or disposed of in landfills. Some regulations will be based on moral considerations, such as Alaska's waste laws which prevent roe stripping and trophy hunting. Third, the markets for healthy foods and nutraceuticals are booming. Fish body parts that are now seen as waste are rich sources of omega-3 fatty acids and of flesh which, while not in the shape of steaks or fillets, can still provide food for those who cannot afford or do not like the fillets but will gladly eat dishes made with minced fish that does not taste 'fishy'.

Fish by-products have become commercially viable over the last few decades, and some fishery by-products businesses have grown more steadily and more profitably than the primary fish processing businesses from which they sprung. By-products businesses are less dependent upon local stocks and the exigencies of local fishing. They can offer products for human consumption that are sometimes unique or at least, less generic, allowing some entrepreneurs to access venture capital that would have been unavailable to a primary processor.

Even those by-products that are generic commodities, such as fish meal or feed-quality oil, are becoming increasingly specialized, with higher demand and greater profitability. This is due to a combination of factors, of which the enormous global growth of the farming of carnivorous fish is the greatest. However, the loss of market share of competing products such as meat and bone meal, due to fears of bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE), has also played a role.

In short, the future for fishery by-products is positive, and it is difficult to see limits to product development and pricing.

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