Fish and aquatic plants: food and so much more – EUMOFA study

There is more to gain from the aquatic biomass - fish by-products and algae can generate high added value, and boost the blue bioeconomy

Over 50% of any fish caught or farmed is not consumed directly. In the case of tuna, as much as 70% of the animal ends up as waste or by-product.

Traditionally, the rest goes into production of fish oil, fishmeal, animal feed, pet food or fertilizer. According to new study from EUMOFA, the European Market Observatory for Fisheries and Aquaculture Products, there is more to gain from the aquatic biomass. As nutritional and pharmaceutical ingredients or cosmetic products, fish by-products and algae can generate high added value, and boost the blue bioeconomy.

The EUMOFA study looks into the value and activities comprising the EU bioeconomy. It offers an overview of the types of investments underpinning the sector, the size of demand and main players involved, future requirements, as well as public policies promoting the biotech sector.

From waste to value added

The study notes that the amounts of biomass available from each type of resource varies widely. As a rule of thumb, more than 50% of any finfish does not directly enter the human food chain. White fish such as cod may generate almost 60% waste, ocean fish such as tuna as much as 70%. For shellfish such as scallops, wastes are as high as 88% of catches and harvests. Exceptions might include cephalopods (c. 65% of cuttlefish is edible) and “reduction fish”, of which 100% is used for fishmeal and fish oils.

Algae and other aquatic plants have also considerable development potential. The study shows an increasing number of SMEs developing high added value products from macro- and microalgae. However, EU algae production is still very small compared with the rest of the world, and the vast majority of the supply is therefore imported.

The study identifies the opportunities and challenges to create products, such as novel foods and food additives, nutraceuticals, pharmaceuticals, cosmetics, materials (e.g. clothes and construction materials) and energy.

High value added ingredients found in algae or seafood are, for example, omega-3 fatty acids, collagen, chitin, gelatin, minerals, carotenoids, enzymes, amino-acids, etc.

Very often, the cost of development is high and the time to market long. Investing in R&D and innovation to make good use of seafood resources requires significant financial resources. Nevertheless, the study confirms that this new stream of the blue bioeconomy can bring a new impetus for long-term economic growth and employment.


The study “Blue bioeconomy: situation report and perspectives” will be carried out by EUMOFA every second year, providing updates and insights on the sector’s most recent developments within the European Union.

Read the full study


Read about the European Commission’s recently launched Blue Bioeconomy Forum

Take part in our survey about the blue bioeconomy


European Commission (Food, Farming, Fisheries, press release, 2018-10-31.


European Commission


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