An ambitious experiment may open new prospects for the cod industry

November 8, 2020 00:08

The Icelandic company Samherji is preparing to conduct a full-scale experiment to develop the concept of storing and landing live cod catches. has looked into the strong and weak sides of the project announced by the company on its website.

The pelagic trawler acquired by the company is currently in the process of being re-equipped for bottom fishing and storing catches in specially equipped tanks. The vessel will operate a traditional bottom trawl, but instead of hauling a trawl to the deck, causing the fish to crumple and die, the codend will be pulled up to the side of the vessel, and then the catch will be sucked onboard using a vacuum pump system.

It is assumed that the ship will be able:

• To keep the catch in tanks in a living form. This makes it possible to process it later on board or deliver it to the shore alive.

• To keep bled, gutted fish in tanks with refrigerated sea water (RSW).

* Store bloodless, gutted fish in cold storage onboard.

This arrangement, according to the company, provides greater flexibility in handling the catch and allows to distribute the work load onboard and during processing on land during peak periods with large catches.

Pelagic trawlers of the Dutch type, and apparently this is the vessel acquired by "Samherji", do not have a fishing deck as in the case bottom stern trawlers, and the fish is pumped out of the codend by a pump without hauling the trawl. However, the small pelagic species for which these vessels were designed (herring, mackerel, sardine, sardinella, capelin, sprat) are much smaller in size. In addition, after passing through the pump, most of the fish will die.

In this regard, Samherji turned to the experience of the Norwegian salmon farming companies in transhipment of live fish from cages to wellboats and vice versa.

As indicated in the information on the company's website, in recent years, Norwegians have largely implemented and used this technology and created a regulatory framework around it. In Norway, it is stipulated that if the fish are kept in cages for less than 12 weeks, fish farming licenses are not required, since this process is not actual aquaculture, but only a form of storage. Regulations in Norway focus on animal welfare, meaning that fish shall not subjected to unnecessary stress and there must be facilities onboard to sort and weigh the entire catch.

The operator must undergo an inspection by the Norwegian food safety authority (Mattilsynet) to obtain permission to catch and store live fish. Since there is no increase in biomass, there is minimal pollution as a result of fish conservation using this method, so the rules are less complex compared to traditional aquaculture.

After four weeks in cages, the fish should be offered food (whole fish, such as capelin). after 12 weeks, the same rules apply as for wild fish aquaculture. If a business plans to store fish for more than 12 weeks, it can apply for a special permit to store fish for up to 20 weeks.

It is not clear how information about the Norwegian regulatory framework is useful for the technical implementation of the project. The main difficulty lies in adapting the rather complex and capricious pumping equipment of salmon farms to work on a ship in open sea conditions (weather conditions, pitching, etc.). In addition, cod, and especially haddock, are much more sensitive to handling and transportation conditions than salmon. Even if the fish are safely moved from the trawl to the tank, there is no certainty that they will survive the transport.

However, Samherji is convinced that there is a lot of room for progress using this method. The time between capture and landing can be reduced from 3-5 days to 0-12 hours. Storing fish in cages can compensate for short-term fluctuations when a shortage of fish occurs due to bad weather or fluctuations in catch. Opportunities to enter new markets with fresh fish will also increase due to a longer shelf life of the product and more stable supplies. The company's employees have made considerable efforts to familiarize themselves with various Norwegian research projects on this topic.

Also it is worth mentioning the possibility of using inedible parts of fish for medicinal purposes. Raw material for this should be super-fresh, without the use of preservation methods (chilling, etc.), in order to preserve the useful properties of specific viscera as well as the vitamins and enzymes contained in them for the manufacture of dietary Supplements and other medicinal products.

Meanwhile, in Norway itself, this line of business (live cod) is practically absent. Annual landings of live cod vary according to various estimates from 800 to 2000 tons in the spring. There are several small firms that keep fish in cages for the needs of local restaurants only. The fishery is carried out by Danish seine with small vessels in the coastal zone. Although the price of live cod is 25-50% higher, and suppliers of live fish were even offered an increase of the quota by 10%, the Norwegian fishermen prefer traditional, proven methods of work.

Cod farms could provide invaluable assistance in the implementation of the project. In Norway, from 2002 to 2008, there was a boom in the growth of such enterprises. In 2008, there were 20 cod commercial fish farms with a total of 533 cages, which resulted in a 60% increase in aquaculture cod production. However, by 2014, this industry had completely ceased to exist in Norway. Only last year, some enthusiasts tried to return to cod farming.

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