What do you do when you are trying to reconcile an organic lifestyle, fish waste problems and poor soil?
You get creative. The island of Niue has called on the Secretariat of the Pacific Community (SPC) to teach them how to turn fish into fertiliser.
Any holidaymaker would describe the island of Niue as a haven of rest in the Pacific. Yet the 2000 people who live there are faced with challenges that must be overcome if they want to continue enjoying their island for generations to come.
The island is a raised coral atoll, hours away from any major city. The soil is poor yet Niue cannot afford to depend on distant imports, whether food or fertiliser. Health awareness is increasing, and a few farmers have come together to form an Organic Farming Association.
Fish is abundant yet Niue has chosen to protect its marine environment by sustainably using the resource. It is illegal to throw fish waste back to sea — to keep the sharks away — meaning the offal must be dealt with, without contaminating land and water.
Healthy use of waste
SPC’s Fish Silage Project was presented at the Head of Fisheries meeting in February 2009 after trials were carried out on the island of Lifou, New Caledonia. Niue’s representative at the meeting expressed interest and a few months later, the project has become a reality, with the SPC team having just returned from Niue.
The idea of the project is to recycle waste by transforming fish offal into fertiliser and animal fodder. Carcasses and guts are crushed using a fish grinder. An acid, preferably organic, is then added to prevent putrefaction and accelerate enzyme activity. For a few days, the brew is regularly stirred and tested for acidity. The result is liquefied fish protein.
Locally produced fish silage can reduce the need for expensive imports of chemical fertilisers and stock feed. In addition to the NPK ingredients (nitrogen, phosphorus, potassium) present in any chemical fertiliser, fish silage is rich in trace elements. It nourishes the soil with microorganisms and protects plants, thus reducing dependence on pesticides. Fish silage can also be used as a food supplement for pigs and chickens. The selenium and omega oils it contains contribute to healthier animals and better quality eggs.
Fish silage production does not require intensive training or investment. SPC has described the process with colourful drawings in an educational booklet that is available in French and English. The booklet describes how Candice and Glen’s arid plot of land becomes a fruitful garden when they are lent a fish grinder to make fish silage. They soon manage to purchase the grinder by selling excess production on the market. Silage can also be produced on a larger scale, by the community or by fishing companies.
This environmentally friendly solution needs to be encouraged as it offers good economic development opportunities. It brings together the fishing and agricultural sectors, contributes to a healthy lifestyle and can be an income-generating activity for women.
For more information, please contact Michel Blanc, SPC's Nearshore Fisheries Development and Training Adviser (phone: +687 26 09 51; email: