Wednesday, June 10, 2015

Upscale Salmon Leather Producer Sources Fish Wastes

Maybe you can’t make a silk purse from a sow’s ear, but an enterprising fisherman in Juneau, Alaska, says his company can create upscale leather and textile products from fishery wastes.

“We believe seafood byproducts have great potential,” says Craig Kasberg, who recently sold his commercial gillnetter to help finance Tidal Vision. And, he said, “Tidal Vision pledges to use byproducts only from sustainably managed fisheries to help ensure our ocean’s resources exist for generations to come.”

What Kasberg is talking about is a line of textiles and other products made from salmon skins and chitin, a polymer found in the cell walls of crab, to produce Chitosan fiber.

The five entrepreneurs who make up the company team say they will help the seafood industry in Alaska make more money without catching more fish, by producing useful products from some of the two billion pounds of fishery waste produced annually in Alaska.

About half of what is harvested in Alaska fisheries annually is either thrown away or turned into very low value products, and Tidal Vision believes this resource deserves to be used to its highest value potential, company officials say.

And if the response on the funding website for creative projects Kickstarter is any indication, the idea has cachet. Within 24 hours of when Tidal Visions sought start up funds, the company was more than 225 percent funded, said Zach Wilkinson, chief operating officer for the company.

Tidal Vision has a patent pending on a method of removing chitin from crab shells that does not use any of the harsh chemicals of the previous extraction methods, and produces a product with a higher tensile strength. The Chitosan fiber produced will be used to manufacture shirts, socks, base layers, underwear and other active wear, under the trade name Chitoskin. The produce will be completely safe for people with shellfish allergies, they said.

To reduce the carbon shipping footprint and ensure traceability of their source of crab shells back to a sustainable fishery, Tidal Vision has been building its patent pending method of extracting Chitosan from crab shells in mobile units, in essence taking the factory to the source of the crab.

Kasberg is the latest of several entrepreneurs so concerned over the amount of waste produced by the industry that they set out to find a use for the waste, for products ranging from nutritional supplements to pet treats.

“I wanted to create visible products so consumers can show their support for sustainable fishing practices, with the hope to bring more awareness to ocean sustainability,” he said.

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