Wednesday, August 10, 2005

Recovery rates and waste utilization

In an article I saw recently, a reporter wrote that the recovery rate on salmon is only 50%. This is hard to say in the overall scheme of things. It might be close if you only recover the meat, but different situation are pushing and pulling the figure up and down all the time. Keeping the roe in a normal fish freezing operation pushes up the recovery rate to maybe 62%. Saving the roe and discarding the fish pushes the recovery rate down to 12%. These are approximate figures only. Recovery rates vary by specie of fish, time of year, type of processing, etc.

If you figured in the salmon that are discarded because of lack of processing capacity and markets, in those areas where there are hatcheries, you would get the true recovery rate for the industry in the area. And that might bring the figure down, that adding roe recovery made go up. So in effect, you might be getting 50% recovery in some areas. Who knows.

Taku Smokeries, of Juneau, put a waste processing barge north of Sitka where a lot of chum salmon have been stripped for roe in the past. (I put the hyper-link in a recent post.) I suppose Sandro Lane is getting the fish mongers to pay him to get rid of the carcasses once the roe is out. The liquified fish is a developing market and why should Sandro go it alone. And maybe the whole thing is designed to do SOMETHING with the carcasses. The state has some obligation to allow roe stripping. They were the ones who built the hatcheries. Then when they discovered there were too many salmon for the market, like my dad and others warned, they dumped the hatcheries on the private sector for a song.

It would be great if Taku Smokeries could make some money with the liquified waste. Traditionally, that's not how by-products have been utilized though. The Alaska seafood industry is probably the last outpost of cutting the tongues out of the buffalo and leaving the carcass to rot. (Not to mention the by-catch issue in the Alaska trawl fishery.)

There's enough protein being destroyed in Alaska that the U.N. could run around in a processing ship getting it all and make football players out of all the men in Nigeria. Well, maybe not quite. But it's all quite a nasty little secret of Alaska's and it might come around to bite the industry one day. You know how word gets around, especially now with so many search engines on the Internet and the like.

But hope may be on the way in the person of one Peter Bechtel at the University of Alaska Fairbanks. He's the Waste Research man for the State of Alaska. He's working on utilizing the bones of fish right now. I'm sure he's got other irons in the fire as well though. But calcium is a real important nutrient for us. One in four men over 50 is going to have a calcium deficiency fracture sometime.

This is the kind of stuff you put in your business plan when you look for financing for a meat separator and bone processing equipment for your plant. This research needs to go from 0 to 60 in a hurry. One person isn't much to work on such a big issue. And he probably is just researching on the Internet. About this time I'd like to import that product research lab at Technical University of Nova Scotia I toured and give him an early Christmas present.

Product development work, whether for the fish or the waste, will go a long ways in getting those 150 Southeast Alaska gillnetters out fishing who just didn't bother one week in July. Or getting those Ocean Beauty seiners back out that are going to have to quit fishing this week. The story I heard was that O.B. was running out of tin to put salmon in, which can't be fixed quickly, unless another packer is willing to give some up.

Maybe they don't want any more canned salmon sitting around past spring though. Or have to dump it into lousy markets like the 99 Cent Stores, or another chain, the Dollar Stores. Maybe that's why the canned pack disappeared this spring. Selling to the Dollar Stores sure doesn't equate to making Marine Mortgage payments on fishing boats and sending kids to college.


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