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Surimi products
Surimi products
FAO/FIIU Photo Library

In addition to preservation, fish can be industrially processed into a wide array of products to increase their economic value and allow the fishing industry and exporting countries to reap the full benefits of their aquatic resources. In addition, value processes generate further employment and hard currency earnings. This is more important nowadays because of societal changes that have led to the development of outdoor catering, convenience products and food services requiring fish products ready to eat or requiring little preparation before serving.

The search for higher productivity and the increase of labor cost has driven the development of vision technology, electronic scales and automatic skinning and filleting machines.

However, despite the availability of technology, careful consideration should be given to the economic feasibility aspects, including distribution, marketing, quality assurance and trade barriers, before embarking on a value addition fish process.


An example of value addition is the production of surimi and surimi-based products. Surimi is a mechanically deboned, washed (bleached) and stabilised fish flesh. It is an intermediate product used in the preparation of a variety of ready to eat seafood such as Kamaboko, fish sausage, crab legs and imitation shrimp products. Surimi-based products are gaining more prominence worldwide, because of the emergence of Japanese restaurants and culinary traditions in North America, Europe and elsewhere.

Ideally, surimi should be made from low-value, white-fleshed fish with excellent gelling ability and which are abundant and available year-round. At present, Alaskan pollack accounts for a large proportion of the surimi supply. Other species, such as sardine, mackerel, barracuda, striped mullet have been successfully used for surimi production.

Fish oil
Fish oil
FAO/FIIU Photo Library


Another important sea resource is seaweed. Around 6 million metric tonnes of wet seaweed are harvested annually. Increasing demand over the last fifty years has led to the development, through research, of cultivation industries that now produce more than 90% of the market's demand. In addition to its use for food, seaweed are harvested to industrially extract thickening agents such as alginate, agar and carrageenan or to produce a dried and powdered brown seaweed, used as an additive to animal feed.

Fishmeal and fish oil

Also, a significant proportion of the world catch (20 percent) is still processed into fishmeal and fish oil. Fishmeal is a ground solid product that is obtained by removing most of the water and some or all of the oil from fish or fish waste. This industry was launched in the 19th century, based mainly on surplus catches of herring from seasonal coastal fisheries to produce oil for industrial uses in leather tanning and in the production of soap, glycerol and other non-food products. Presently, it uses small oily fish to produce fishmeal and oil. It is worthy to mention that, only where it is uneconomic or impracticable for human consumption, should the catch be reduced to fishmeal and oil. Indeed, cycling fish through poultry or pigs is a loss because there is a need for 3 kg of edible fish to produce approximately 1 kg of edible chicken or pork.


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