Alaska seafood processing expert helps explore creative solutions to industry challenges
Kodiak, Alaska—As Alaska Sea Grant’s seafood technology specialist, Chris Sannito puzzles through seafood processing challenges to increase efficiency and cost-effectiveness in the seafood industry.
Sannito says that one recent challenge to the seafood processing industry is the need to become more efficient. Increasing minimum wages means that processors are having trouble supporting their staff members. In Kodiak, where pollock harvests have increased, seafood processors are struggling to generate more output with fewer employees.
Technological advances are increasing the efficiency of producing seafood, although new machinery can be quite expensive. A new groundfish processing machine can cost half a million dollars or more. Fish processors around Alaska are also looking to lean manufacturing—which is a method that eliminates waste in a manufacturing system—as a way to increase efficiency and streamline processing, Sannito says.
Sannito is tackling a number of new projects around the state that increase the use of fish byproducts. One of his projects is looking at using fish skins, which are usually thrown away, to make pet treats. A critical aspect of this project is to learn how marine oils behave in storage, because the treats need to be shelf-stable products.
Another project is developing alternative markets for pollock roe. The market for pollock roe is large in Japan, but market prices have recently begun trending downward. “We’ve put together a group of pollock roe industry specialists with the hopes of creating and identifying some alternate market forms for the roe,” Sannito said.
As a kid Sannito dreamed of living by the ocean. Just after college, he moved to Japan to teach English. “I saw how much seafood was a part of everyday life in Japan, and so much of this seafood was coming from Alaska.”
Inspired to learn more, Sannito pursued a master’s degree in seafood studies at the University of Alaska Fairbanks. Hired by the Alaska Sea Grant Marine Advisory Program in 2015, Sannito is based in Kodiak, Alaska, at the Kodiak Seafood and Marine Science Center. He provides statewide seafood processing training.
Sannito teaches the hazard analysis and critical control points (HACCP) management system, which is mandatory for all seafood processors. He assists with the Alaska Seafood Processing Leadership Institute, leads a popular workshop on smoked seafood and offers training in quality control, sanitation and several other processing-related topics
Sannito likes working with seafood processors and assisting people who want to jump-start their careers in seafood processing. “I enjoy helping people,” Sannito said. “The seafood industry has been very good to me over the years, and it is a great feeling to give back to the industry by helping an entrepreneur get started.”
- Chris Sannito, Seafood Technology Specialist, Alaska Sea Grant Marine Advisory Program, 907-486-1535; email@example.com