John Kilpatrick passed away on February 19, 2023, in West Vancouver. He is survived by his wife Pat, their three children and a grandchild.
John was born in Nairobi Kenya in 1934 and grew up in Hartford England, attending Sir John Deanes Grammar School in Northwich, and the University of Liverpool from where he graduated in 1956, in Chemistry & Physics and specializing in organic chemistry. His first job was as an assistant chemist with the Christian Salvesen Company, Edinburgh in Scotland on board a factory whaling ship operating out of their Leith Harbour base on the NW coast of South Georgia.
These early experiences of the dying days of Antarctic whaling with the dangers, the drastic decline of the great whales and the lack of sustainability, left a deep impression on the young oil chemist. From these experiences came his life-long involvement in and advocacy of more sustainable harvesting of the oceans and the need to avoid wastage and obtain the highest quality and utilization of what was harvested.
More than 60 years later, at a GOED Connect meeting, John recounted his memories of Christmas 1956 in Leith Harbour, South Georgia where in the midst of the hardened, well-lubricated whalers, John ate a krill sandwich, the first krill burger, filled with krill recovered from the stomach of a recently slaughtered blue whale. This was the basis of his lifelong interest in krill and other underutilized marine organisms as potential sources of valuable marine ingredients.
On returning from South Georgia in 1957, he continued to work on the quality of whale oils and the development of hydrolyzed whale meat extracts for human use. When Salvesens ceased whaling, he became involved in the onboard freezing of freshly caught fish to preserve their quality and deliver the nutritional benefits of fresh seafood to post-World War Britain. Salvesen’s pioneered the building of the first factory freezer trawlers with a stern ramp, (The MV Fairtry series) on which John worked on quality control and the recovery of byproducts. These designs, originally developed for whaling, allowed the hauling of trawl nets up a stern ramp, followed by immediate processing, freezing of the fish and recovery of useful byproducts that otherwise would have been dumped back to sea.
In 1962, seeking new opportunities, he emigrated to Canada, joining B.C Packers Ltd. On the West Coast, where again he witnessed the dying days of Canadian whaling around Coal Harbour on the Northern tip of Vancouver Island. He then took up the role of quality control manager in the canning of wild Pacific salmon and became their director of research and business development. He took great delight in the small details that improved the quality and utilization of Pacific salmon, such as the addition of a bead of fresh salmon oil to the can just before sealing and cooking, using oils recovered from salmon byproducts – so that on opening the can, the consumer is greeted by a shining bead of astaxanthin-rich salmon oil.
He was a strong advocate for the recovery of all fishery byproducts, and for using enzymatic hydrolysis to achieve this. He contributed to major projects in Canada and Norway on the use of enzymatic hydrolysis for the on-board fractionation of Antarctic Krill to improve the recovery and quality of their oils, phospholipids proteins and astaxanthins.
While working in the Pacific Salmon Fishery in the 1970s, John had become a keen observer and student of the then-emerging salmon farming industry in Norway, Scotland and Ireland. He saw the global potential in the culture of salmon rather than just the fishing of wild salmon. He recognized that the aquaculture of salmon and other species would require ever-increasing quantities of high-quality marine oils, proteins and pigments to produce high-quality farmed salmon.
In 1989, he joined BP Nutrition Ltd in Vancouver working on the available nutritional ingredients used in driving the development of salmon farming. When Nutreco BV, the Netherlands, took over BP Nutrition, they already owned Skretting & Co., a leader in aquaculture feeds, and also Marine Harvest (now Mowi), one of the leading groups in international salmon farming. The consolidation of the supply chains in salmon farming at this time saw a rapid growth of the industry and aquaculture around the world. In 1991, he and his family moved to the Netherlands to be close to the head offices of Nutreco.
John became their technical advisor and international fish business and business development manager for raw materials for aquaculture feeds. He was in his element, having to seek quality marine ingredients from fish processing, and meal and oil plants around the world. He was always looking to improve the recovery of valuable ingredients. He visited plants from Zamboanga in the Philippines, and in Chile, Peru, Alaska, Ireland, Norway, Iceland Denmark, Russia, Thailand and the Maldives. He could recount the history of these plants, and their founders and was on first-name terms with their operators, always ready to generously share insights towards ever better utilization and recovery of marine products.
Attending an international trade show with John was like following a rock star. He was hosted and greeted throughout the concourses by colleagues from the four corners of the Earth.
He also circulated a highly-regarded newsletter on the availability and trends in marine oils, meals and other products, for key clients and contacts, to keep them updated on the dynamic changes in the availability of these products. Over the years, this newsletter was faithfully edited and distributed by his wife Patricia from their home base. No matter where John happened to be in his travels, Pat was the master planner and coordinator of these travels and reports over the years.
John retired from these globetrotting expeditions in 2006 but continued working independently on his special interests such as krill oils, fish oil concentrates and special fractions for use in famine situations. In the last decade of his life, he took a great interest in the potential of culturing microalgae and other single-celled organisms at the very base of marine food chains, as sources of the long-chain fatty acids, proteins and pigments, so that they no longer would there be any need to hunt whales, seals, or fish to source essential nutrients for human nutrition.
He was an active member of many key professional bodies involved in nutrition, marine oils and proteins such as AOCS, the Canadian Institute of Food Science & Technology, the Pacific Fisheries Technologists, Nordic Lipid Forum, and IFFO, and was an invited speaker at many key international conferences.
As a postscript to John’s lifelong experiences around the Oceans of the World, he would have been delighted with the agreement reached by the UN Assembly on March 4, 2023; to protect oceans outside of the 200 nautical mile limit. This legal framework for biodiversity beyond National Jurisdictions will be crucial for enforcing the 30x30 pledge made by the UN biodiversity conference to protect a third of the sea (and land) by 2030.
*Compiled by John A. Spence, In collaboration with many colleagues and friends of John Kilpatrick.