Novel Ways to Reuse Fish and Reduce Waste Will Benefit Livelihoods, Environment In Lake Victoria

fish scales reuse
Examples of fish reuse products

Over 200,000 metric tons of Nile perch are harvested from Lake Victoria each year. The fillets are exported to Europe, but the skin, guts, bones, and scales create biowaste that pollutes the shoreline. Until now. At the Kenya Marine and Freshwater Research Institute (KMFRI) in Kisumu, interns and scientists are finding new ways to turn that waste into usable products. Secure Fisheries visited colleagues at KMFRI and learned how they turn fish oil into soap, skin into leather for shoes and jackets, and scales into a fine powder that stops wounds from bleeding. Although most of this innovation is in the early and small stages, if commercialized, the products could help remove biowaste and its pollution from the lake while providing a local source of needed materials and supporting small-scale livelihoods. And fish leather is already finding an international market. Newton Owino of Alisam Products has created a green tanning facility—he uses all-natural plant derivatives to tan the leather—near Kisumu. His unique fashion textiles are making their way to the United States and Europe. Scientists and entrepreneurs are leading the way in the circular economy.