Office of Fisheries Development

By-Product Development

As one of the world's greatest producers of wild caught seafood, Alaska’s seafood industry is now turning its attention to developing a seafood waste by-products industry.  A significant portion of the fish meal production comes from groundfish operators, either at facilities in Dutch Harbor and Kodiak, or from at sea in factory trawlers. Based on Commercial Operators Annual Report figures, total pounds of fish meal production in Alaska declined from 111.5 million pounds in 2000, to 68.5 million pounds in 2009. Despite processing 57.4 million pounds less in 2009, the value of the fish meal adjusted to 2009 dollars is about the same, $37.2 million (2000) versus $38.8 million (2009).  The volume of fish oil more than doubled and the price climbed nearly fourfold between 2000 and 2009 with eleven million pounds of fish oil worth $2 million processed in 2000 compared with 22.7 million pounds worth $7.5 million in 2009 (inflation adjusted to 2009 dollars). The number of fish oil processors ranged from a high of 19 in 2001to as few as three in 2008, while the number of fish meal processors declined from a high of 62 in 2001 to 12 in years 2002-2009.

Current Alaska Production

Fish Meal Only

Fish Oil Only


Over the last ten years, production from the world's wild capture fisheries has leveled off, with 18 – 25 percent of all wild capture fisheries dedicated to reduction products. Meanwhile, it is estimated that about 25 percent of the world fishmeal production is coming from fish waste. According to the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) this share is expected to increase further in view of limited wild catches for reduction and expansion of the seafood processing industry. The growing value added products segment is also a significant producer of fish waste. Additionally, aquaculture production has been significantly increasing and adding to the demand for fish based feeds.

Compared to 2009 global production of fishmeal totaling 5.7 billion pounds, Alaska's production of 68.5 million pounds represents only one percent of the entire world's supply. Alaska production of fish oil ranks similarly relative to global fish oil production.

Although the potential volume of fish waste byproducts from Alaska is small by global standards, it may still be possible for communities and industry to handle waste more efficiently, develop commercially viable products, and reduce environmental compliance costs. For example, Alaska spends $20 million on fish feed each year for its salmon hatcheries - feed that comes from South America. According to industry specialists, using high quality Alaskan produced feed reduces shipping costs and would yield higher growth rates in salmon. Additional benefits include the creation of local job that contribute to a more stable tax base.

Determining the economic potential of fish waste products and production technologies needed to successfully bring new products to market will depend on the volume and mix of species available, and the results of a thorough cost benefit analysis.

Certified Meal and Oil: Global fish meal and oil producers are making the change from providing feed to serving the health demands of consumers. Recent industry figures for combined sales of meal and oil is nearly $10 billion, with greater returns estimated as value adding trends continue. To achieve these results long term, the industry is moving into certified labeling, currently at 20 percent of global meal and oil production. A certified product is well managed and is sourced from a sustainable supply. The International Fish Meal and Oil Association is leading the way in certified meal and oil products. Suppliers to this market should be prepared to have their products certified to meet growing customer demands for certified seafood and feed as well as seafood based nutraceuticals. To learn more about this program go here:


Alaska Commercial fisheries are geared for human consumption. Processing thus removes much of the nutrient value, leaving relatively low-nutrient material. Achieving similar nutrient levels to those found in meal from whole fish reduction fisheries (sardines, anchovies, menhaden, herring, etc.) remains a challenge in Alaska.


Fish Meals: Fishmeal typically comprises 60 – 72 percent protein, 10- 20 percent ash, and 5- 12 percent fat. The fat fraction is high in the health promoting omega-3 long chain polyunsaturated fatty acids EPA and DHA, often referred to as “omega-3s.” Peru is the world’s largest supplier of fish meal, followed in descending order by Chile, Denmark, Norway, and Iceland.

Peru's fishmeal production for 2010 has been estimated at 1.40 million tons, about the same as 2009 and slightly over half (54%) of global fishmeal production. China continues to be the main market for Peruvian fishmeal, with about half of Peruvian fishmeal exports going to this market. Fishmeal moves almost exclusively into livestock and aquaculture feeds. A smaller portion of fishmeal goes into poultry production. As aquaculture production continues to grow, more fishmeal will go towards supplying this industry.

Fish Oils: Demand for fish oil is strong on the world market, and further price increases are likely in the near term. U.S. sales of omega fish oil supplements have topped $500 million and the market continues to grow. During 2009, the oil capsule industry continued to increase its purchases to meet growing demand for omega-3 fish oil for human consumption. Fish oil prices climbed to a record high of $1,800 /ton in 2008 before returning to more normal levels of around $650 /ton in 2009. The jump in value during 2008 reflected a temporary decline in supply from major producers in the face of strong demand.

Bone meal: Bone meal is used for livestock feed. The use of bone meal from ruminants (sheep, cows, goats) in Europe probably resulted in recent "mad cow" food safety issues. The European ban on using ruminant based bone meal in livestock feeds is an opportunity for wild capture seafood bone meal – based feed substitutes.

Fuel: Fish waste can be converted to fish fuel similar to diesel. Fish oil and fish oil biodiesel is an economical alternative in remote communities where large quantities of fish oil are readily available and can compete with diesel oil on a price per gallon basis. Alaska currently produces roughly eight million gallons of fish oil each year. The majority of this oil is produced by the largest fish processors in the Aleutian Islands. Statewide, there is an estimated potential 13 million gallons of unrecovered fish oil each year from the fish waste of Alaska’s many small fish processors.

Bait: Longline and pot fisheries consume large volumes of bait and Alaska imports thousands of tons of bait every year. Opportunity exists to develop a bait market utilizing salmon heads and carcasses where roe has been removed.

Plant Fertilizers: Fertilizer made from Alaska fish waste in the form of hydrolysate offer plant growers high quality substitutes especially rich in nitrogen.

Pet food: There are an estimated 172 million companion animals living in 62 percent of United States households, where pet owners spend on average, $30 billion annually to feed their companions. This spending pattern is increasing, especially within the snacks and treats pet food market currently growing at double digit rates. The growing number of childless couples, singles living alone, and the baby boomers now becoming “empty nesters,” will continue to boost the demand for pets and pet food. Adding Alaska seafood to pet foods and snacks targeting this high end demographic satisfies customer buying preference for pet foods that must be a source of high nutrition, taste, and means of maintaining excellent animal health.

Health products: Alaska seafood products are known for their heart healthy attributes. Omega 3 oils, found in abundance in wild Alaska salmon, is just beginning to be used in today’s fastest growing fish oil based markets in products ranging from fish oil capsules to hair and skin care products.

Stickwater process: The Kodiak Fishery Industrial Technology Center has successfully performed studies on ways of filtering out proteins from fish waste in an attempt to boil down waste into water known as “stickwater.” In addition to reducing costs associated with waste disposal, the protein concentrate removed from the stickwater can be used to boost the protein concentration in food products.


Bibliography of peer reviewed research on Salmon By-products and Co-products, 2003-2008, Alaska Fisheries Development Foundation:

Alaska Seafood By-Products:  Potential Products, Markets and Competing Products (Revised 2008) by Anthony P. Bimbo - Alaska Fisheries Development Foundation

Seafood Network Information Center:

International Fishmeal and Fish Oil Organization (IFFO):