Icelandic innovators taking waste out of the blue economy

Water covers 71% of the Earth’s surface – but currently only 4% of the food we consume comes from the sea. The growing global population and finite land-based resources could mean we turn increasingly to aquatic sources in the future.

But in a world where fish stocks and the marine environment are already under pressure from human activity, simply increasing our catch or raising fishing quotas would end in ecological disaster. So what is the solution to develop a sustainable blue bio-economy?

According to Hordur Kristinsson, chief science and innovation officer at Matis, a government owned food and biotech research institute, the answer is to put sustainability at the heart of development – something he claims the Icelandic seafood sector now does.

“In Iceland the blue bio-economy is our focus, this is our livelihood. Sustainability is at the core of things now at least, it didn’t used to be like that,”​ he said at an event organised by the European Institute of Innovation and Technology’s (EIT) Food KIC as part of London Food Tech Week. “There are areas where we do things sustainably and we don’t deplete the ocean.”

Nevertheless, from a global perspective, the seafood value chain is still highly inefficient. On average the EU fishing sector discard 20% of the biomass when fish are caught and processed. Fish heads, intestines, bones and skin are all discarded.

Yet more waste occurs at a consumer and retailer level, with as much as 35-40% of seafood products wasted at a consumer level, Kristinsson said.

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