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Reaping benefits from waste


According to the Food and Agriculture Organisation of the United Nations, the use of animal guts to produce biodiesel is not a new technology. However, of late there has been growing interest in “aquaticbiofuels” – producing bio diesel from fish gut. Fish oil comes from leftover waste and is mixed with methanol and other products.


Certainly, as island states, knowledge about such technology should be of interest to us. Commercialising our waste in this regard produces local energy, but also attracts a wider cross-section of intellectual muscle into the fishing industry, particularly in the areas of scientific research and technology. According to the FAO, the technology is adaptable to many parts of the world and can provide livelihoods and produce local energy, avoiding greenhouse gas emissions. The technology required here takes little investment; energy can be produced at little cost and ultimately can have a positive impact on food security and energy security.


Having just discussed using the waste for fuel, you can begin to imagine the increase in income to be made from fish, if we as a people were to recognise the commercial value of what we’ve been discarding.


There’s more. After the oil is extracted from the fish, then mixed with methanol and caustic soda in order to separate the glycerin from the biodiesel, that glycerin is sold to the cosmetic industry for the for the production of soap. The cosmetic industry also benefits from other by-products. The biodiesel, we are told, is purified by adding manganese, and this becomes fit for use in engines.


What remains after the extraction of the oil can be used to produce fishmeal, a nutrient-rich and high protein supplement feed ingredient that is used primarily in diets for domestic animals and sometimes as a high-quality organic fertiliser. Some of the major fishmeal producing countries are Japan, Thailand, Peru, Chile, Iceland, Norway and Denmark.


Barbados’ fish industry is insignificant when compared to any of the above mentioned countries – in size, man-power, technological sophistication and commercial and economic vision. Our size will not change. Our man-power is not likely to alter drastically. However, is the technological sophistication and vision we speak of beyond the reach of a Caribbean Fishing Industry, inclusive of Suriname, Guyana, Belize, Haiti and of course, the flying fish nations of Barbados and Trinidad and Tobago? Pursuing such an industry that supported not just the production of fish waste derivatives, but also commercialised fish meat products (fish mince, fish burgers, fish sausages and so on) as a regional interest is worth the consideration. It requires considerable investment in plant – infrastructural and technological – and there are significant economies of scale. Consideration for the environmental, health and legal ramifications which could come about should the appropriate national policies not be put in place to ensure that all activities are above board has not escaped us, and you will find that there is a noteworthy amount of accessible research on such.


Having said that, our thoughts on fish could have easily been on the research and commercialisation of the medicinal and cosmetic uses of aloe vera, sour sop, breadfruit leaves and so much more goods which surround us daily, but whose raw materials are for the most part extracted for limited use in the domestic market. We have ways to go yet to move beyond raw material extraction, which even if exported, in no way could build our economies in the way that exporting added-value products could. Instead of these latter products, we import at much higher costs and to the detriment of our own foreign exchange supplies.



Category/ies:Articles, Biomass, News, Regional Articles.
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