Fish Skin Waste Is Increasingly Popular As A Substitute

The colorful leather material produced by entrepreneur Alexksandr Vasenev comes from tanned fish skin. Vasenev has been producing and selling fish skins for three years. The raw material is waste from the fish processing industry.

After being painted in various colors, the leather is turned into bags, wallets, belts, clothes and even shoes.

According to Vasenev, the structure of fish skin makes it a unique product. Utilizing it into various products has helped reduce waste.

It said the waste dumped into the sea reduces oxygen on the seabed and can cause new diseases and invasive species. Around the world, large quantities of fish skins are simply thrown away.

Vasenev says, “Fish skin, the structure of its scales, like fingerprints, each is different. So, on the one hand we remove waste or dirt on the planet, and make the fish processing industry turn waste into income, no matter how small. In addition, we make each product unique.”

Vasenev is the founder of the company Rybiy Mekh, Russian for fish skin. He has a background in chemistry, but works in other fields. In 2015, he was approached by a student who had a pioneering idea to make a product from fish skin.

After seeing the structure of the skin, he fell in love with this material. He invested about three million rubles in this business. The processing technology was not perfect at first, they did it manually.

Clothing materials and other products from fish skin are increasingly popular.  (Photo: illustration)

Clothing materials and other products from fish skin are increasingly popular. (Photo: illustration)

This business then grew and the company created its own technology and now has 144 production processes for fish skins. Fish scales can be removed without manual processing. With a special fluid, the scales can be removed without damaging their unique cell structure.

The skin is soaked in a special chemical liquid, cleaned, tanned with the help of natural tanning ingredients, and then softened.

Some work, such as pre-cleaning, is done manually once the fish waste arrives from the fish processing plant.

Ivan Vasenev, son of the company’s founder and director of technology explains, “When a bunch of fish waste comes in, it’s not perfect. Often there is still meat that we don’t need in the process that sticks to the skin. So we have to get rid of it.”

After the fish skin goes through all the major technical processes, including tanning, the skin is dyed and varnished by hand.

Vasenev is especially proud of the white skin of the fish, which, to his knowledge, is not produced anywhere else. He explained that it was very difficult to whiten fish skin.

Fish skin structure is more fibrous and more elastic so that it can be well shaped for the production of shoes, wallets and garments.  (Photo: illustration).

Fish skin structure is more fibrous and more elastic so that it can be well shaped for the production of shoes, wallets and garments. (Photo: illustration).

Lyudmila Raskhodchikova is the owner and maker of goods at the Fishskin Trade House shop. According to Raskhodchikova, many people mistakenly think that fish skin is soft, thin and smells bad.

He says, “Fish skin is very different from other skins like cowhide, or exotic skins like crocodile or snake skin. It’s different in structure, more fibrous and therefore more elastic and can be molded well.”

That kind of elasticity is especially good for making footwear, says Raskhodchikova. His company also uses fish skin to make bags, wallets, clothes, interior decorations and furniture.

The results are well marketed abroad, especially in the US, as well as in France, Italy, Australia, Germany, Turkey. Sales are doubling every year, says Raskhodchikova.

The price of fish skin itself ranges between the price of livestock skin and exotic animal skins. The fish used are mainly salmon, trout and chum salmon.

Although indigenous people have tanned fish skins since ancient times, modern consumers are only just starting to recognize this product, and manufacturers like Vasenev hope the trend continues. [uh/lt]

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