Production of bioactive peptides from salmon processing discards

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By Milthon Lujan

Utilization of salmon processing discards. Source: Ramakrishnan et al., (2024); Food Prod Process and Nutr.
Utilization of salmon processing discards. Source: Ramakrishnan et al., (2024); Food Prod Process and Nutr.

Fish, a cornerstone of countless diets and cultures, nourishes millions of people worldwide. However, fish processing often poses a hidden challenge: what to do with the remaining 60%? That’s where the fascinating story of fish byproducts unfolds.

A team of scientists from the Memorial University of Newfoundland published a scientific review summarizing the most up-to-date information on Atlantic salmon, processing, protein production techniques, nutritional and functional properties, peptide production and purification processes, as well as potential health benefits as a nutraceutical product.

Fish Byproducts


After harvesting, salmon is processed into fillets with heads, butterfly fillets, skin-on fillets, or skinless fillets, depending on market requirements.

Heads, skins, bones, and leftovers, once destined for landfills or the depths of the ocean, are now recognized as a treasure trove of untapped potential. Packed with proteins, lipids, minerals, and bioactive compounds, they await transformation into valuable products.

Imagine gourmet fish heads adorning Asian tables, while collagen extracted from fish skin nourishes people’s skin. Picture omega-3 fatty acids from salmon trimmings enhancing intellectual capacity, or enzymes derived from processing discards fueling sustainable industrial processes. These are just glimpses of the possibilities.

Processing Techniques

The potential of utilizing fish waste depends on processing techniques. Enzymatic hydrolysis, starring proteolytic enzymes like Alcalase or papain, takes center stage. These enzymes break down byproducts, releasing smaller, easily absorbable peptides with potent bioactivities.


These peptides hold the key to a healthier future. They possess antihypertensive, antioxidant, and anticancer properties, offering natural defenses against chronic diseases.

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Imagine fish byproducts, once discarded, becoming “weapons” in the fight against diabetes, allergies, and even cholesterol!

Fish Hydrolysates

Through intelligent processes like enzymatic hydrolysis, underutilized parts of salmon transform into valuable protein sources. This is not just any protein, of course.

Salmon protein hydrolysates boast an impressive range of bioactivities, acting as natural champions against various health issues.


According to scientists, “Protein hydrolysates obtained from these processes are used in the food industry as milk substitutes, protein supplements, stabilizers in beverages, and flavor enhancers, among other applications.”

Valorization of Fish Byproducts

Imagine lowering your blood pressure, boosting your antioxidant defenses, or even turning away cancer cells, all thanks to the small peptides within salmon hydrolysates. Research has revealed their potential to combat diabetes, allergies, and even high cholesterol, making them potential nutritional compounds.

But how do we find these hidden health heroes within the protein mix? That’s where cutting-edge technology comes in. By harnessing the power of “in silico” methods, scientists can virtually examine the protein landscape, identifying promising peptides even before heading to the lab. This computational magic helps predict suitable processing, isolation, and purification techniques to unlock their full potential.

The key is to scale up these processes while keeping them cost-effective and environmentally friendly. After all, transforming waste into valuable products aligns perfectly with the principles of circular economy and recycling, a win for both our planet and our health.


But the benefits go beyond individual well-being. Valorizing fish byproducts promotes a circular economy, minimizing waste and maximizing resource utilization. This not only benefits the environment but also creates new jobs and boosts local economies.

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“Atlantic salmon and its byproducts have proven to be an excellent repository of potent bioactive molecules such as proteins, omega-3 oil, collagen, gelatin, peptides, enzymes, hydroxyapatite, and minerals,” conclude the scientists.

They also highlight that bioactive peptides exhibit potent antioxidant, antihypertensive, antimicrobial, anticoagulant, and antidiabetic activities, being used to produce low-value products like fertilizers, silage, pet foods, and fish meals.

From scientific advancements in peptide isolation and characterization to the commercial approval process, the future of fish byproducts holds great potential.


The study was funded by the Ocean Frontier Institute (OFI) through an award from the Canada First Research Excellence Fund.

Deepika Dave
Department of Biochemistry, Memorial University of Newfoundland, St. John’s, NL, A1C 5S7, Canada
Marine Bioprocessing Facility, Centre of Aquaculture and Seafood Development, Fisheries and Marine Institute, Memorial University of Newfoundland, St. John’s, NL, A1C 5R3, Canada
Email: Deepika.Dave@mi.mun.ca

Fereidoon Shahidi
Department of Biochemistry, Memorial University of Newfoundland, St. John’s, NL, A1C 5S7, Canada
Email: fshahidi@mun.ca

Reference (open access)
Ramakrishnan, V.V., Hossain, A., Dave, D. et al. Salmon processing discards: a potential source of bioactive peptides – a review. Food Prod Process and Nutr 6, 22 (2024). https://doi.org/10.1186/s43014-023-00197-2

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