Catching, processing and marketing of Neptune whelk




Jónas R. Viðarsson, Lúðvík Börkur Jónsson

Supported by:

AVS Research Fund (small project S 12 002-12)


Jónas Rúnar Viðarsson

Director of Business and Development

Catching, processing and marketing of Neptune whelk

Kingfisher (Neptunea despecta) is a kingfisher that resembles a kingfisher, but is somewhat larger and usually stays at a deeper depth. It is believed that the kingfisher is in large quantities in many parts of the country and that the stock can withstand considerable fishing. The MRI has recorded information about the king of the sea from lobster expeditions for many years, which indicates considerable density in many parts of the country. In 2012, Sægarpur ehf. in Grundarfjörður a grant from the AVS research fund in the Fisheries sector to investigate the possibilities of fishing, processing and exporting kingfishers. This was a so-called small project or preliminary project. The project was divided into work components that involved distribution mapping and experimental fishing, processing experiments, chemical measurements and market research. On the other hand, Sægarpur ehf. became bankrupt during the project period and it can be said that the project has to some extent resurfaced as a result. However, since a large part of the project was completed when Sægarpur went bankrupt, the authors now consider it right and obligatory to publicly report on the progress and main results of the project. In addition, the experiments carried out by the company Royal Iceland hf. has been involved in connection with fishing and processing of sea king, but Royal Iceland bought the assets of Sægarp's bankruptcy estate in 2014 and has since then, among other things, fished and processed bait king. The main results of the mapping of distribution and experimental fishing were rather limited, as information on kingfishers as by-catch in other fisheries is scarce and the species has received little attention in the research of the Marine Research Institute. The experimental expedition led by the project also yielded very little results. The results of processing experiments showed that it is possible to remove the king of the sea's toxic glands and that it is possible to measure whether tetramine (the poison) is found in products, but this does require a considerable cost. The results of a basic market survey indicate that it is possible to sell kingfisher products, especially in well-paying markets in Asia. But since the king of the ocean is not known in Asian markets and there is always a risk of tetramine poisoning, marketing of the products is very difficult. It is clear that there is a need for significantly more research in the entire value chain before it is possible to state whether and how much opportunity there is in fishing and processing kingfishers in this country.

Neptune whelk (Neptunea despecta) is a gastropod that looks a lot like the common whelk, but is though considerably larger and is usually found in deeper water. Neptune whelk is believed to be in significant volume in Icelandic waters, but concreate knowledge on stock size and distribution is however lacking. In 2012 the company Sægarpur ltd., Which was during that time catching, processing and exporting common whelk, received funding from AVS research fund to do some initial investigation on the applicability of catching, processing and marketing Neptune whelk. Sægarpur did however run into bankruptcy before the project ended. The project has therefore been somewhat dormant since 2013. The company Royal Iceland ltd. did though buy the bankrupt estate of Sægarpur and has to a point continued with exploring opportunities in catching and processing Neptune whelk. The authors of this report do now want to make public the progress and main results of the project, even though the project owner (Sægarpur) is no longer in operation. The project was broken into three parts ie mapping of distribution, processing experiments and initial market research. The main results of the mapping exercise showed that very little knowledge is available on distribution of Neptune whelk in Icelandic waters and data on Neptune whelk by-catches is almost noneexistent. The Marine Research Institute has as well awarded very little attention to the species in its research. The project organized a research cruse, where a fishing vessel operating a sea cucumber dredge tried fishing for Neptune whelk in 29 different locations; but with very little success. The results of the processing experiments showed that it is possible to remove the poison glands from the Neptune whelk, bot mechanically and manually. It also showed that the products can be measured for the presence of tetramine (poison). Both the processing and the measurements do however require significant efforts and cost. The initial marketing research indicated that there are likely markets for Neptune whelk products. These markets are primarily in Asia and some of them are high-paying markets. The efforts of Royal Iceland in marketing the Neptune whelk have though shown that this is a difficult product to market, especially because the Neptune whelk is unknown on the Asian markets and there is always a possibility of a tetramine poisoning. It is clear that much more research is necessary throughout the entire value chain before it is possible to say with level of certainty if and how much opportunities are in catching and processing of Neptune whelk in Iceland.

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