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More and more fish and shellfish are being kept in “hotels” before being slaughtered. Scientists at Nofima work closely with industry to improve not only technology and economy, but also the welfare and quality of fish stored alive.
More and more fish and shellfish are being kept in “hotels” before being slaughtered. Scientists at Nofima work closely with industry to improve not only technology and economy, but also the welfare and quality of fish stored alive. Photo: Bjørn Tore Forberg/Nofima

Fish hotels: Capture-based aquaculture

Wild fish can be stored alive, which increases both the quality and the value of the catch. Nofima research has been central to the development of this method, and we work closely with the industry to improve both the technology and fish welfare.

Norwegian fisheries take the greatest part of their quotas during a short period. Handling large quantities of fish, however, leads to poorer quality and thus lower prices. By keeping fish and shellfish alive after capture and processing them when the quality or market conditions are advantageous, the value can in many cases be greatly increased. Evermore fisheries are choosing to store their catches alive, and the total volume of fish stored alive is expected to reach 4,000 tonne during 2014.

Our scientists are continuously working to develop descriptions and guidelines that can form the basis for “best practices”. Most research is carried out onboard vessels, while there is a need also to study in detail how capture and transport affect the fish. Such studies are carried out at Nofima’s laboratories, in tanks or cages.

Quality is central

Fish are stored alive for a period that may be as short as a few hours or as long as several months. Our experiments have shown that as short a period as six hours storage onboard the trawler gives significantly higher quality than that obtained if the fish are slaughtered immediately.

Many challenges must be faced when ensuring that optimal quality is maintained right up until the fish arrive on the dinner table. Scientists at Nofima have documented how the fish should be handled during capture and when being taken onboard, how they should be stored and transferred to sea cages, and what they should eat, if they are to be stored for a long period. Other aspects that they have investigated include slaughter, transport and storage methods, in order to determine how to obtain the best product.

The scientists follow the fish from capture right through to the markets, at restaurants and supermarkets, in order to gain information about how fish from capture-based aquaculture are regarded by the most demanding customers.

Technology and welfare

Capture-based aquaculture places special demands on the welfare of the animals. Nofima is working to document how gentle the various techniques and methods are.

Researchers Chis Noble and Bjørn Steinar Sæther measuring live stored cod.

Researchers Chis Noble and Bjørn Steinar Sæther measuring live stored cod. Photo: Lidunn Mosaker Boge/Nofima

We carry out frequent investigations into the physiology of the fish and how well they tolerate capture, transport and storage. Good welfare for the fish leads to higher quality, and is therefore profitable.

The discovery by scientists that cod could recover through resting in a cage with a flat bottom, rather than the normal conical cages, led to major advances in the storage of wild-caught cod.

Nofima is currently working to develop new technology both onboard the vessels and on land, such as, for example, the vacuum pumping of fish from the trawl and automatic bleeding and slaughter lines.

National Centre of Excellence

The Ministry of Fisheries and Coastal Affairs established in 2010 a national centre of excellence in capture-based aquaculture at Nofima in Tromsø. The centre is focussing on the storage of live cod, and collaborates closely with both the fleet-based and the land-based industry. A perspective that includes the complete value chain guides activities at the centre, which is developing products and methods that increase fish value.

The scientists carry out both basic and applied research into capture, transport and the storage of fish and shellfish. The storage and feeding of cod caught in the spring and slaughtered in the autumn forms the basis of work at the centre, while the scientists work also with a number of other species.

We have established a reception centre for living shellfish at which we develop new methods of transport for species that include king crab and langoustine. Producers of seafood can here document the quality of their products.

The centre has been awarded research quotas for the most important species for many years, and is now supported from a supplementary system from the Directorate of Fisheries for research tours.

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