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).
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.
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.