Kenyan science interns turn Lake Victoria’s fish waste into oil and flowers

  • Fish processing on Lake Victoria in Kenya generates tons of waste that harms the atmosphere and leads to oxygen depletion and algal blooms that threaten native aquatic species.
  • Science interns at the Kenya Marine and Fisheries Investigation Institute have created a way to extract beneficial fish oil from the waste, and they are also creating decorative flowers from fish scales.
  • These innovations are component of a developing trend of recycling Lake Victoria’s fish waste, turning it into goods that can be sold in nearby communities.
  • Scientists aim to lower the environmental harms of fish waste via innovations that could ultimately be scaled up to meet developing national and international demands for fish oil and other solutions.

KISUMU, Kenya — At Dunga Beach on the shores of Lake Victoria, a lot of varieties of fish, such as tilapia, Nile perch and mudfish, are processed for consumption and distribution. Every single day following processing, the fish remains develop tons of waste that threatens the atmosphere.

The procedure of converting Nile perch into chilled fish fillets for export generates substantial amounts of strong and liquid waste, estimated to be as higher as 50-80% of the original raw material, thereby posing considerable environmental issues.

In addition, the proliferation of medium-sized fish processing facilities along the lakeshores leads to a considerable quantity of waste. The Kenya Marine and Fisheries Investigation Institute (KMFRI) reports that 150,000 tons of fish waste are generated every year, of which 80% is dumped.

A substantial portion of the fish waste is swept into the lake, though some of it ends up in open landfills. But now, a group of young scientists is attempting to resolve the issue, turning fish waste into beneficial fish oil. Their efforts are component of a developing trend in recycling Lake Victoria’s waste and turning it into usable goods.

Environmentalists have warned of the dangers in fish waste: When it decomposes, it consumes oxygen from the water. This can lead to oxygen depletion, which can harm fish and other aquatic organisms that demand oxygen to survive.

In addition, excess amounts of fish waste and other nutrient sources can lead to eutrophication, which is when an excess of nutrients in the water leads to algal blooms and lowered water clarity. Fish waste can also include bacteria and viruses that can harm human overall health if the water is utilized for swimming, fishing or other recreational activities.

On the shores of Lake Victoria, a lot of varieties of fish, such as the Nile perch, are processed for consumption and distribution. Image by Worldwide Atmosphere Facility by means of Flickr (CC BY-NC-SA two.).

Revenue prospective in fish waste

Several fishmongers are unaware that they are discarding prospective sources of revenue by tossing out fish scales, bones, skins and bladders, which could be worth millions of shillings on nearby and international markets, according to officials at the Kenya Fisheries Division.

According to investigation published in the International Journal of Environmental Investigation and Public Well being and other journals, there are numerous methods to use fish waste to create revenue based on nearby industry demand, availability of sources and the technical know-how of the person or neighborhood involved.

For instance, fish waste can be utilized to generate higher-high-quality organic fertilizer. For the duration of the composting procedure, the organic matter in the fish waste breaks down, releasing nutrients that are vital to plant development. This organic fertilizer can be sold to farmers, landscapers and gardeners.

In addition, fish waste can also be processed into fish meal, which is a higher-protein feed ingredient utilized in aquaculture and livestock feed. It can also be utilized in aquaponics as a fertilizer for plants that purify the water it can be produced into biogas, a renewable power supply that generates electrical energy or heat via anaerobic digestion and the collagen located in fish waste can be utilized in the production of cosmetics and health-related solutions.

On Lake Victoria, nearby communities are also obtaining that fish waste can be converted into oil via a procedure referred to as rendering, which requires heating the waste to break down fats and oils. Afterward, the oil can be utilized to make biodiesel, omega-three supplements and cosmetics. This production technique has reduced expenses and a lowered environmental effect compared with standard fish oil production.

Preparation of fish waste.There are numerous methods to use fish waste to create revenue based on nearby industry demand, availability of sources and the technical know-how of the person or neighborhood involved. Photo courtesy of Dennis Otieno.

In spite of possessing a decade of expertise in the fishing business, Lucy Akinyi a Lake Victoria fishmonger, mentioned she is ignorant of the notion of omega-three fatty acids, usually identified as fish oil, getting made from the wastes she discards.

Alice Aluoch, an additional fishmonger, revealed that she sells only the fish meat and removes the scales with a knife, resulting in up to a 20-liter bucket of waste she discards every day.

At a fish industry with hundreds of fishmongers, this benefits in tons of waste getting discarded every day.

More than the years, specialists have grappled with how to dispose of the matter. This is in order to save the lake, which is currently choked with pollution posing a threat to humans and aquatic life. According to the United Nations Atmosphere System, Lake Victoria faces different types of pollution, such as agricultural, which benefits in dangerous algal blooms via eutrophication.

The lake also suffers from industrial pollution such as heavy metals, chemical substances and other toxic substances. Higher levels of waste from human settlements, such as sewage and strong waste, lead to the spread of waterborne ailments and invasive species such as water hyacinth. Along with invasive Nile perch, these species have left considerable ecological impacts on the lake, such as the displacement of native species and adjustments to the lake’s meals internet.

A man wades through hyacinth growth on Dunga beach.A man wades via hyacinth development on Dunga Beach. Image by Marcel Crozet / ILO by means of Flickr (CC BY-NC-ND two.).

Science interns find out to extract oil from waste

In a surprising turn of events, Lake Victoria’s fish leftovers have proved to be a fortunate discover for a group of interns at KMFRI.

Dennis Otieno, an aquatic science graduate from Kenya’s Egerton University, has led a group of 5 interns who have designed revolutionary technologies capable of transforming fish waste into fish oil.

Fish oil, a wealthy supply of omega-three fatty acids, is obtaining its way into a variety of solutions across different industries. It is a preferred dietary supplement for its added benefits in advertising heart overall health, brain function and lowering inflammation.

In addition, fish oil is utilized as a supplement in animal feed to strengthen livestock overall health and the nutritional high-quality of animal solutions. Industries such as paint, varnish and lubricant production use fish oil for its chemical properties.

Fish oil is also utilized in the production of cosmetics, such as skin creams and lotions, due to its moisturizing and anti-inflammatory properties. And it is utilized in pharmaceutical solutions to treat higher cholesterol levels.

Beyond fish oil, the interns have also created a technique of repurposing fish scales into wonderful flowers for decorations in events and universities locally. Even though this option is presently getting implemented on a little scale, it has the prospective to be scaled up employing sophisticated technologies to address the environmental challenge posed by fish waste.

The plan was inspired by Otieno’s undergraduate project in 2017. Beneath the guidance of his supervisors, he extracted oil from the popular carp (Cyprinus carpio) located in Lake Naivasha, northwest of Nairobi. Upon effectively finishing the project, he graduated and joined the Kenya Fisheries Division in Kisumu as an intern. Even though functioning there, Otieno decided to collaborate with his colleagues to implement the project on the shores of Lake Victoria. And now, the group utilizes Nile perch waste to extract fish oils.

“If the project is upscaled, it can contribute to the improvement of atmosphere, increase overall health of the people today, raise revenue and strengthen livelihoods,” he mentioned.

Otieno mentioned he sees this as a option that could bridge the gap in the fishery worth chain and market environmental conservation.

Dennis Otieno giving a presentation about fish waste products at a summit.Dennis Otieno providing a presentation about fish waste solutions. Photo courtesy of Dennis Otieno.

With a locally produced oil extractor machine that expenses $556, Otieno and his colleagues extract omega-three fish oils from Nile perch offal. This machine consists of 3 primary elements that can also assess the high-quality of a item.

“The offal is fed into the machine, exactly where it is mixed with water and stirred at a extremely higher speed for a couple of minutes just before the final item is made,” Otieno explained.

The remains following the oil extraction procedure are utilized as chicken feed, gelatin and collagen utilized to treat burns.

The extraction method follows regular process as outlined in a 2019 study published in the journal Foods.

The study assessed the effect of a fish oil refining procedure in 4 stages: “degumming (to separate phospholipids), neutralizing (to lower acidity), bleaching (to get rid of coloured components) and deodorization (to get rid of undesirable odour compounds).”

Otieno mentioned that due to the fact they initiated the procedure in 2022, they have observed a rise in the nearby community’s demand for fish oil. Therefore, nearby purchasers obtain the oil straight from the production web page.

“The achievement of the project has offered financial empowerment for us, and our ultimate purpose is to grow to be the major producer of omega-three fish oil, animal feed, gelatin and fish flowers in the area.”

According to him, if a fish weighing 18kg (40 pounds) is sold for $57, he can extract 11 liters (about three gallons) of oil from its waste and sell the oil for $65.

In spite of this, Otieno mentioned the group is facing the challenge of inadequate funding, which has impeded their efforts to scale up production.

A fish oil extractor machine.With a locally produced fish oil extractor machine, Otieno and his colleagues extract omega-three fish oils from Nile perch offal. Photo courtesy of Dennis Otieno.

Increasing worldwide markets for fish oil

According to a industry evaluation report by the small business consulting firm Grand View Investigation, the worldwide fish oil industry was valued at $two.25 billion in 2014. Newer forecasting by Vantage Market place Investigation showed anticipated development to attain $17 billion by 2028.

Financial investigation has shown that the demand for fish oil would most likely surge additional due to developing awareness amongst buyers of the overall health added benefits connected with omega-three consumption.

In addition, the Grand View report predicted the business would expertise an raise in demand due to shifts in dietary habits that outcome in higher consumption of hydrogenated vegetable oils and margarine. In addition, the use of fish oil in protective coatings and lubricants was anticipated to be a driving aspect in business development.

Mongabay spoke to William Okello, a single of the prospects who obtain oil from Otieno and his group, who mentioned his overall health enhanced following consuming a teaspoon of the oil. An additional client, Ann Akinyi, who was six months pregnant, reported that the oil from Otieno prevented her feet from swelling, a popular situation amongst pregnant females.

Investigation has shown that fish oil can have prospective added benefits in addressing pregnancy-connected problems. According to a study published in the journal Testimonials in Obstetrics and Gynecology, taking fish oil supplements throughout pregnancy may possibly assist to lower the threat of preterm birth, low birth weight, and preeclampsia.

“I take a spoonful of the oil following I cook vegetables and sprinkle the oil more than them just before consuming,” Akinyi mentioned.

In order to achieve a lot more overall health added benefits from omega-three fatty acids located in fish, the Planet Well being Organization (WHO) recommends consuming 1-two servings of fish per week, as this may possibly supply protection against different ailments.

Further added benefits of fish oil include things like advertising heart overall health, aiding in the remedy of some mental overall health situations, supporting eye overall health, lowering inflammation, enhancing skin overall health, lowering liver fat and alleviating symptoms of depression.

Locals sample fish oil products.Locals sample fish oil solutions. Photo courtesy of Dennis Otieno.

From fish scales to flowers

Apart from fish oil extraction, Otieno identified the environmental impacts of fish waste and set out to find out other inventive options to the situation.

“I was inspired by the wonderful arrangement of fish scales and believed that they could be transformed into beautiful flowers,” Otieno explained, noting that he could develop up to 5 bouquets in a single day.

The procedure of fashioning flowers from fish scales requires initially washing them and then soaking them in dye derived from plant pigments just before air-drying them for a minimum of 3 hours.

Otieno then joins with each other the colorful scales employing a fish skin-derived adhesive to develop a variety of styles and patterns.

He sells them to the nearby neighborhood and, at instances, for weddings and anniversaries.

Otieno has showcased this innovation in diverse conferences such as the United Nations Atmosphere Assembly (UNEA-five.two) held in Nairobi in February and March 2022 to market the flowers’ sale to the public. He mentioned he believed capital investment in aquaculture was needed.

Chrispin Nyamweya, assistant director and investigation scientist at KMFRI, praised the innovations by the interns and revealed that there are plans to certify the solutions for substantial-scale production.

He pointed out that KMFRI intended to seek the approval of agencies, such as the Kenya Bureau of Requirements, to guarantee meals security for each flowers and fish oil just before the technologies would be provided to industries to implement.

Nyamweya additional stated that KMFRI is taking time with the procedure to patent the technologies and safe copyright for the young innovators.

A bouquet of flowers made with fish scales.A bouquet of flowers produced with fish scales. Photo courtesy of Dennis Otieno.

Fish waste recycling expanding on Lake Victoria

Fish waste recycling has gained traction in the current previous amongst diverse groups in Kenya. For instance, females on the shores of Lake Victoria collect freshly discarded fish waste, which involves skin and bones left following filleting. Following smoking and drying the waste, they grind it with a milling machine.

Isabella Asamba, an environmentalist at Maseno University, explained that the animal feed made from fish waste is nutritious and can improve the productivity and overall health of piglets, calves and chicks.

The skin from bigger Nile perch is delivered to the Kenya Industrial Investigation and Improvement Institute to be treated and tanned into sturdy leather that is much less prone to decomposition. Prior to sun-drying, chemical substances are utilized to do away with the fish oil from the skin, and table salt is added.

According to Asamba, the leather is then utilized to develop footwear and handbags. This implies that “we have found a a lot more appropriate and lucrative method to using fish waste rather than discarding it,” Asamba mentioned. Raw components are readily accessible, as Nile perch accounts for 70% of Lake Victoria’s total fish catch.

Nyamweya observed that fish waste recycling has had a optimistic effect on the atmosphere on the shores of Lake Victoria. “Previously, the fish waste would be left to rot on the shorelines, causing pollution and making a foul smell. Even so, with the introduction of fish waste recycling, the waste is now getting utilized to develop beneficial solutions such as fish oil and animal feed,” he mentioned.

He explained that this has not only lowered pollution but also offered a supply of revenue for nearby communities. Moreover, the recycling procedure has helped to strengthen the hygiene and sanitation of the nearby region. All round, he mentioned, the recycling of fish waste has had a considerable optimistic effect on the atmosphere, economy and neighborhood overall health on the shores of Lake Victoria.

Banner image: Fishers going fishing at Dunga Beach, Kisumu. Image by Marcel Crozet / ILO by means of Flickr (CC BY-NC-ND two.).

Boom and bust on Lake Victoria: Q&ampA with author Mark Weston


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Coletta, J. M., Bell, S. J., &amp Roman, A. S. (2010). Omega-three Fatty Acids and Pregnancy. Testimonials in Obstetrics and Gynecology. Retrieved from

Neighborhood Improvement, Neighborhood-primarily based Conservation, Conservation, Atmosphere, Fish, Fishing, Meals, Meals Market, Meals Waste, Freshwater Fish, Lakes, Pollution, Waste, Water Pollution

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