A fisheries operation consisting of three barges moored near Auke Bay is using a Scandinavian process to turn salmon carcasses into feed for Asian shrimp farms.
Cossack Caviar has been operating since July 5 just outside Auke Bay harbor.
Despite the company's name, caviar from salmon eggs is only a small part of the business the barges are engaging in, said Ron Decker, Cossack's president.
``The primary thing we are doing aboard is a venture to process fish hydrolysate,'' Decker said.
Fish hydrolysate is the product of a new, sophisticated process developed in Scandinavia. It eliminates the controversial practice of discarding carcasses from which roe has been stripped.
``The neat thing is that you won't have to throw remains overboard anymore where they become pollution in the form of anaerobic reefs,'' Decker said. ``It's a way to make money with (what used to be considered) garbage.''
The liquid hydrolysate is shipped to Prince Rupert, where it is further refined. The bulk of it becomes feed for shrimp farms in Thailand, and nets twice the income of fish meal. And it's in demand.
``We have orders for far more than we can produce this year,'' Decker said.
Making fish meal is both smelly and expensive. Fish are 80 percent water, and it requires considerable costly diesel fuel to evaporate that water. And then that dirty water becomes a liability, because ``environmentalists want us to handle it like nuclear waste,'' Decker said.
In the hydrolysate process, fish is ground up finely. After enzymes and acids are added, the mixture is heated and ``digested.''
``You don't cook it to death, you don't spend a lot of money on diesel, and you get a really high-grade protein in liquid form,'' Decker said.
Another advantage of the hydrolysate is that it is stable; it won't decay or deteriorate.
``If you keep it below 80 degrees, you can store it for a year'' before processing it further, Decker said.
Cossac Caviar has invested $4 million in this venture, he said.
``Many of our investors are greenies, and they're very happy about it,'' Decker added.
Fish processing is taking place on one of Cossack's barges, the Alaskan Venturer. Attached to it is a camp barge that sleeps 50. Behind the camp barge is a tanker barge, which collects the hydrolysate for transport to Prince Rupert.
With a capacity of about six million pounds, the tanker is emptied only two or three times a summer, Decker said.
Cossack Caviar, with headquarters in Arlington Wash., is one of the West Coast's best established salmon caviar processors. Decker is purchasing salmon from commercial fishermen and the Douglas Island Pink and Chum hatchery.