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Namibia Hauls in Innovation: Repurposing Byproducts Creates Win-Win for Fishing Industry and Food Security

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Namibia’s fishing industry, a cornerstone of the national economy, is throwing out the catchphrase “waste not, want not” as it embarks on a groundbreaking partnership with the World Economic Forum (WEF) to tackle food loss and waste. The focus? Untapped potential in fish byproducts – heads, guts, skins, and frames – traditionally discarded at sea.

This isn’t just about environmental sustainability; it’s a strategic chess move in a world grappling with growing food insecurity and unemployment. The United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization paints a stark picture: over a third of seafood globally is lost or wasted, while most fisheries are already stretched thin.

Namibia, with its bountiful hake stocks, isn’t immune. Research reveals a staggering 33% loss during processing, translating to valuable resources tossed overboard. But the tide is turning. In a six-company consortium, industry titans like Embwinda Fishing and Merlus Seafood Processors are joining forces to explore innovative ways to capture, land, and process these byproducts into value-added treasures.

This Namibia Ocean Cluster Working Group, backed by the UK’s Blue Planet Fund, has ambitious goals. It aims to establish a collaborative platform where stakeholders across the seafood value chain can brainstorm, experiment, and ultimately maximize the post-harvest potential of every fish.

The inspiration? Iceland’s Ocean Cluster, where cod byproducts have transcended fishmeal and fertilizer to become high-value ingredients in pharmaceuticals and cosmetics. Thor Sigfusson, Iceland’s CEO, applauds Namibia’s initiative, highlighting its potential to revolutionize sustainable fisheries management and create planet-friendly food systems.

The economic upside is undeniable. Namibia’s fishing industry already contributes 3.6% to GDP, but repurposing byproducts promises new markets, jobs, and revenue streams. Startups specializing in transforming waste into human-quality protein, fertilizers, and nutraceuticals could flourish, fueling a wave of innovation and entrepreneurship.

Policymakers, business leaders, and environmentalists are all rowing in the same direction. The Namibia Ocean Cluster, modeled after its Icelandic counterpart, creates a non-competitive space for all players to share expertise and drive collective progress.

This isn’t just a local win; it’s a beacon of hope for a global industry grappling with resource constraints and sustainability challenges. Namibia’s bold endeavor holds the potential to rewrite the narrative of fisheries management, demonstrating that resourcefulness and collaboration can not only nourish a nation but also serve as a blueprint for a more sustainable and equitable future for our oceans.