Food Loss and Waste in Fish Value Chains
©FAO/Ansen Ward

Artisanal Fish Salting

Artisanal fish salting is a traditional method of processing used in many countries. It is often used in combination with drying and smoking. It is a low cost form of fish preservation. There are two common methods of salting: dry salting, whereby salt is applied directly onto the fish surface; and, brining, whereby the fish are immersed in a salt/water solution. Both marine and inland fish are salted. Fish are salted whole (if they are small), split or cut into pieces prior to salting.

The salting process and product characteristics are affected by the type of salt used and the duration of the process. Salted fish tend to be robust and can have a shelf life of 6 months, depending on species and salt/moisture content.

Salt uptake is affected by:

  • Fat content
  • Thickness of fish
  • Freshness
  • Temperature

Food loss and waste (FLW) occurs because of poor raw material quality, handling and infestation.

For example, FLW can occur because of insect infestation (Dermestes spp, Necorbia spp), attack by animal pests such as rats, mould growth, physical damage and chemical changes brought about by oxidation lipids (fats). Insects and pests typically cause waste, as well as quality loss. Oxidation of fat brings about colour change in dried products which can affect taste (rancidity) and the selling price of products value. Oxidation is also associated with nutrient loss.

FLW can also be caused by a condition known as “putty fish,” which is the result of both heat and bacteria. Fish that get too warm become soft and tend to break open when they are dressed/split. Later, during the splitting and washing, bacteria get into these cracks. When the fish is salted, many of these cracks are pressed together leaving the bacteria inside the fish, and the salt outside. If these bacteria grow fast enough, they may spoil the fish before the salt strikes in to stop their growth. It takes from one to two full days in warm weather for the salt to penetrate the thicker parts of the fish, and usually only large fish become puttied.

Key Publications

Post-Harvest Fisheries Development: A Guide to Handling, Preservation, Processing and Quality

A comprehensive overview of the basic concepts behind post-harvest fisheries science and technology, to assist the non-specialist with decision making.

The Processing of dried salted fish

Describes the salting of fish in detail.                                                                                                                                               

Salted fish

Comprehensive overview of salted fish production and products.                                                                                          


More Resources

More Resources

01 January 2018
International Collective in Support of Fishworkers (ICSF) gender in fisheries newsletter. 
Overview of causes of and solutions to fish loss and waste. 
Important role women play in artisanal fisheries and the obstacles they face.