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

We offer

  • Research on the capture, transport, reception and storage of fish, crustaceans and sea urchins.
  • Land- and sea-based research facilities for conducting product and logistics testing in connection with live seafood
  • Technology developments related to pumping technologies, transport vats, net-pens for live fish reception and storage, and slaughter lines
  • Research on technology and methods for ensuring optimum quality
  • Research on physiology, stress and restitution, behaviour and criteria for ensuring good welfare
  • Advice on nutrition and management
  • Best practice guidance in the form of manuals and factsheets

Some achievements

  • Increasing the industry’s knowledge about best practices and procedures for live storage of fish and shellfish
  • Quality enhancement of raw material from fresh haddock
  • Guides and factsheets on handling crab
  • Guidebook for live storage

Norwegian coastal fisheries take the majority of their quotas over a short period of time. Handling large quantities of fish, however, leads to poorer quality and lower prices.

By keeping fish and shellfish alive after capture and processing them when the quality or market conditions are advantageous, the value may be greatly increased.

An increasing number of industry players are now keeping their catch in live storage. 2018 was a peak year for this practice, with live storage of more than 8 000 tonnes of cod.

Our researchers are working on developing best practice guidelines for catch and live storage of fish and shellfish in order to achieve the best possible quality. Some of the research is conducted on board the fishing vessels, but there is also a need for more detailed examination of how the catch and transport process affect the marine organisms. Such research is carried out at Nofima’s laboratories, in vats or net-pens.

Focusing on quality

The fish are stored alive for periods ranging from a few hours to several months. Our experiments show that by using short-term live storage on board trawlers, the quality becomes significantly higher than when the fish is slaughtered immediately after being pulled on board.

In order to preserve optimum quality all the way until the fish reaches the dinner table, there are a number of challenges that must be solved at the various stages – during capture, storage and when the fish is in the net-pens.

Nofima researchers have documented how the fish should be handled during capture and when it is brought onboard the boat, how it should ideally be stored and transferred to open-water net-pens, and what it should be fed if it is to be kept in live storage for a longer period of time.

We also investigate which practices for slaughter, transport and storage provide the best possible product.

The researchers follow the fish all the way from capture until it arrives at restaurants or supermarkets, to gain insights on how the most discerning customers perceive the quality of the fish.

Technology and welfare

Capture-based aquaculture requires that we safeguard the welfare of the fish. Nofima is working on documenting how gentle various techniques and methods are. We often examine the physiology and tolerance of the fish in connection with capture, transport and storage methods and conditions. Good welfare leads to good quality and is also more profitable.

When the researchers discovered that cod was able to recover by resting in a flat-bottomed net-pen, as opposed to the regular conical pens, it set the table for great progress in how to store wild-caught cod.

National Centre of Excellence

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

In 2010, The Ministry of Fisheries and Coastal Affairs founded a national centre of excellence in capture-based aquaculture at Nofima in Tromsø.

The centre has a particular focus on live storage of cod, and cooperates closely with industry stakeholders from both the fishing fleet and land-based industries. When we develop products, methods and technology for increasing the value of the fish, we consider the value chain as a whole.

The researchers at the centre mainly focus on ways of storing and feeding cod that are caught in the spring and slaughtered in the fall, but they are also working with a number of other species.

We have established a reception facility for shellfish, where we also develop new transport methods for king crab and Norway lobster. In recent years we have also carried out extensive research on the handling of live snow crabs, where we examine various conditions for welfare and quality.

An important task for the centre is to share the research-based knowledge with industry and management bodies. This is done by attending and arranging various courses and seminars, by publishing factsheets and manuals, and also through arranging an annual workshop where the industry, management bodies and research sectors meet to present and discuss   concerns and challenges.

 

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