Fish discards ban to land whopping processing costs

By Freddie Dawson

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags: European union

All in the net: But what about extra processing costs?
All in the net: But what about extra processing costs?
Much higher processing costs will result if trawlermen are forced to land what they catch as part of radical reforms to the EU’s Common Fisheries Policy (CFP), according to the pan-fishing industry body Seafish.

Banning the practice of discarding fish at sea , while welcomed by many, will result in landing a much wider variety of fish species and weights, which will require significant investment in additional handling machinery, said Philip MacMullen, Seafish’s head of environmental responsibility.

The technology to automatically sort catches, such as 3D cameras and land-based inline weighers, does exist – but at a whale of a price. Such equipment could cost between £5,000-£10,000 each, according to Andrew Howden, product engineering manager at the Centre for Food Robotics and Automation (CENFRA).

Labour costs

Smaller-scale manufacturers may struggle to cope with the additional capital costs, he added. But sorting fish by hand could lead to prohibitively high labour costs.

Priority should be given now to developing automated sorting processes, argued the Food Refrigeration and Process Engineering Research Centre (FRPERC). Its senior research fellow Dr Graham Purnell said starting research now would allow time to commercialise the technology before discarding fish at sea was banned.

The question is whether or not it is commercially feasible. Nothing is impossible, but can it be done within resources and for the right price?​” said Purnell.

Young’s Seafood already sources up to 40 species as part of its effort to use more underutilised species of fish.

It continues to experiment with equipment and machinery to expand the varieties that can be processed, said a spokesman.

Scientific research

According to a statement on the firm’s website it “recognises the need for on-going scientific research into new and more effective technical methods for fishery and fish farm management and encourages environmental, ecological, animal welfare, food quality and safety improvement".

Young's Seafood added: “We will strive to become involved with such scientific research projects and use our market position to encourage implementation in both catching and farming sectors​.”

Plans to reform the CFP reforms, released in July, will be considered by the European Parliament (EP) and Council for adoption under the ordinary legislative procedure. The European Commission wants to implement the new framework by January 1 2013.

That means there will be 15 months of negotiations between EU governments and the EP before the new rules are adopted. Many amendments to the original proposals are thought likely.

Related topics: Regulation, Seafood

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2 comments

Not quite the whole picture

Posted by Phil MacMullen,

The content of this article only reflects half the story that I originally expressed in interview with Food Manufacture.

Whilst it is undoubtedly true that it is likely to be expensive for seafood processors to tool-up to properly utilise new and low-margin species, we need to consider the bigger picture (omitted from this report) from a sustainability point of view. That is that if processors cannot in the end economically deal with these species once they’ve been landed, then they would probably end up either being used for fishmeal or (worst case scenario) put into landfill. Both also expensive options.

Therefore we also need to look more widely at opportunities to properly utilise all the fish that might be landed under a new regime that bans discards. My other point was also that the sensible – and preferable - alternative to the fishmeal/landfill/processing quandary should be local niche marketing of this fish, probably via local restaurants and other foodservice outlets, but also via local fishmongers.

This will be a tough challenge but one that the whole industry – from fishermen and processors right through to retailers and chefs – will need to ponder in detail as the implications of Common Fisheries Policy reform are deliberated over coming months.

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It can and should be done

Posted by Neville Merritt,

There have been plenty of environmental reforms in the past that have increased manufacturing costs - purely because the costs of original practice was being carried by the environment (clean air for example). If there has to be a way, then you can be sure commercial interests will find that way!

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