Biotechnology and research are playing an increasingly important role in maximising the potential of the Icelandic fishing industry.
A new study reveals a 17 per cent growth in biotechnology and advanced marine processing, described as the ‘sub sectors’ of the industry - and the findings will impact on fishing industries worldwide.
Some companies are already using more raw material to produce medical, cosmetic and skin care products which are available in Iceland as well as other international markets.
The Iceland Ocean Cluster (IOC) reports that ‘sub sector’ products turned over €134 million in 2012 and could exceed the value of the traditional fishing industry in Iceland within 15-20 years.
The IOC creates networking opportunities for ocean-related industries in Iceland and worldwide. It says it is vital that opportunities in ocean biotechnology and advanced marine processing are explored and developed. Its report urges fisheries, seafood firms, biotech businesses and marine processors to work together to explore, support and develop opportunities to develop the potential of raw material and maximise the value of every catch.
Almost 20 biotech companies have already identified the market potential of using by-products that are usually discarded such as heads, bones, skin, guts, shells and other materials involved in seafood manufacturing. These are valuable to companies in the pharmaceutical and medical industries as raw material for supplements, flavour enhancers, animal feed and cosmetics.
“Even though fish catches are generally well utilized in Iceland, there are massive opportunities in doing better,” says the IOC. “Cluster co-operation of firms can play a large role in innovation and development in the fishing industry.”
More companies are waking up to the potential of maximising the value of each catch. One company uses cod enzymes to produce healing and moisturising skin care products. Another firm produces natural flavour enhancers while another company produces canned liver products (which are selling well in several Eastern European countries).
Although Iceland is doing far better in this area compared to other countries which depend on the fishing industry, the IOC says there is ample room for improvement.
“There is no doubt that the fields of ocean-biotechnology and advanced fish processing carry substantial opportunities. These opportunities need work, patient capital, research and development. This is a potential growth machine that will need capital in the coming years. The importance of better utilisation of catches is greater now than ever before.”