Lumpfish – from louse eater to the dinner plate
Lumpfish have become an important weapon in the struggle against sea lice. This means that there are large volumes of it in Norwegian aquaculture. Now the task is to find new ways of using the little working fish.
The roe, which has given the characteristic turquoise-blue fish its Norwegian name (rognkjeks), is considered a delicacy. The actual fish, however, is quite unlike all other fish in Norwegian waters. For this reason it has never become a part of the Norwegian diet.
But could there be other markets for lumpfish?
This is what food research institute Nofima and salmon producer Lerøy Aurora will attempt to find out in the project “From louse-eater to the dinner plate.” Now all eyes are on Asia. The project has been funded with NOK 300,000 from the Troms county council and NOK 250,000 from the Regional Research Fund North.
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Lumpfish are released into salmon pens when they weigh 20 grams. When they reach around half a kilo, their task as louse eaters is usually done. And currently there is no use for the fish.
– They are usually ground up into animal feed. “It’s not right that a valuable source of protein should be ground into animal feed,” says researcher Bjørg Helen Nøstvold with Nofima.
She mentions that the salmon industry has worked hard to combat sea lice, and that lumpfish have proven to be a promising lice deterrent, and that one may reach 100,000 tons of farmed lumpfish for the aquaculture industry per year.
The cost of farming lumpfish is already covered. If we can find new markets for the fish once it has completed its mission in the salmon pens, this would be a win-win situation in several ways: “Income to the industry and a solution to an ethical problem,” the Nofima researcher points out.
“Now work is starting on assessing what is available in terms of expert data and whether any markets consume this species.
– Based on studies of available secondary information, we will select a market and travel there to investigate further. Who are the buyers, how can the fish be used? What kind of prices are likely, and so on? We do for example know that small quantities of wild-caught lumpfish have been exported from Iceland. We also know that businesses have worked on establishing a market in South Korea, but we don’t know how they have fared,” Nøstvold says.
However, before any new markets are approached, the Nofima researchers want to get to know the fish better. “Lumpfish have thick skin and a lot of cartilage and bones, so those who prefer fillets and loins will probably steer clear of it.
– However, Asian cuisine uses seafood in different ways than we are accustomed to. Could they find a use for lumpfish? Tromsø has a rich variety of international cuisine. We will therefore ask the city’s international chefs to help find uses for lumpfish as food for humans,” Bjørg Helen Nøstvold says.