Angler Stops Catching Fish and Starts Recycling Them as Clothes

A 23-year-old Alaskan is making crab-shell shirts and salmon-skin wallets out of discards to promote sustainable fishing.

Tidal Vision founder Craig Kasberg. (Photo: Courtesy Tidal Vision)

Feb 7, 2015· 2 MIN READ
Taylor Hill is an associate editor at TakePart covering environment and wildlife.

Four years ago, Craig Kasberg was just another Alaskan teenage angler, spending upwards of 28 days at sea aboard his vessel, Katz.

OK, so maybe not a typical teenager. But by his 23rd birthday, the Juneau native had already spent eight summers on the ocean and seen firsthand how crucial sustainable fishing is to a coastal town like his.

“That importance of the ocean to my home has always been in me,” Kasberg said. But the waste and habitat destruction he saw in his profession gave him pause. And an idea.

“The guys out there overfishing and using trawler nets are wreaking havoc on the habitat, and they have a huge economic advantage over the guys trying to fish sustainably,” Kasberg said.

Now, he thinks he can level the playing field a bit for environmentally minded fishers and make a chunk of change himself too.

The secret? Salmon-skin wallets and crab-shell shirts.

No, really.

Kasberg’s plan is to reuse and recycle discarded fish skins and turn them into leather—just like cowhide. Kasberg sees potential for fish-skin wallets, belts, and more.

Swatches of Tidal Vision's salmon skin wallets show what the company's recycled fish product could look like. (Photo courtesy Tidal Vision)


What about the smell? Nonexistent, Kasberg claims: The smelly fish oils are removed and replaced with vegetable oils during the tanning process.

“Smells more like cow leather than fish,” he said.

The Alaskan salmon samples he’s been testing are about as durable as cow leather, but the texture is more like snakeskin.

And those crab shirts? The fabric will feel softer yet will be heavier than your average cotton shirt. The textile is spun with chitosan, a natural compound found in crab shells that works as an antimicrobial barrier, reducing the smell from sweat. Some athletic wear on the market already contains chitosan, but Kasberg says he’s working on a textile mixture with a much higher percentage of chitosan that won’t wash out of the clothing.

Thanks to a certain compound found in crab shells, Tidal Vision's T-shirts will have antimicrobial properties, eliminating odor from sweat. (Photo courtesy of Tidal Vision)


Dubbed Tidal Vision, Kasberg’s company is still in the prelaunch phase, but he’s hoping to unveil his first product line by summer.

“We’ve got to make sure we get the right coloring and dyes set before we go to production,” he said.

The company needs money too. For that, Tidal Vision’s planning to start a Kickstarter campaign in May.

What’s a fresh fish wallet and a crab fabric shirt going to cost? About $50 each, according to Kasberg.

What’s most important is making sure the salmon and crab waste comes from fishing operations that are certified as sustainable. In the seafood industry, figuring out where your seafood came from, what your fish actually is, and how it got to your plate is nearly impossible.

With Tidal Vision, you’ll know exactly where your fish wallet (wild-caught Alaskan salmon) and your crab shirt (wild, pot-caught Alaskan snow crab) came from.

“We’ve got fishermen out here trying to do what’s right, but they’re not getting any reward for that,” Kasberg said. “We can target fishing operations that use sustainable fishing methods, buy back their waste, and even the economic playing field a bit.”

The hope is that other fishing operations follow suit—and maybe someday we’ll all own sustainably caught salmon wallets.