Our Fish Leather Tanning Process

The tannery which produced this leather had been producing other types of leather, from animals, when fish became an addition to the mix. The tannery was in Eastern Ontario and closed as a result of Canada’s adherence to the Kyoto protocol on atmospheric emissions. Fish leather tanning does not need the harsh chemicals used to remove hair from animals, as fish only have scales. However, the fish leather operation, being part of the tannery, had to close.

The tanning process for fish leather took about a month. Every fish is different – saltwater, freshwater, northern, southern, and every one has a different oil content. None of the fish marketed by Sea Leather Wear are on the endangered species list.

The fish skins came from commercial fisheries and shipped frozen in 80 to 100 pound boxes. A combination of chemicals removed all the fish oils so that there is no odor. An intricate 30-day chemical and mechanical process included churning, soaking, fleshing and vacuum drying. Timing is critical in the chemical soaking stage. If soaked too long, it will lose its strength and eventually fall apart. The flesher removes any “yuck” left on the back of the skin. The special tanning process prevented the fish leather from stiffening after removing the oils.

The tannery produced suede, silk, glazed, pearlized and high grain finishes all from the same species of fish. The suede can be made water-proof. The glazed is scratch/stain resistant and never needs polishing. The skins have either small or large scale pockets, depending on the fish type.

Fish leather is the second strongest leather known to man. Three strips of certain fish, 1/2 inches wide, braided together, can pull an automobile.

Sample fish leather skinsSample fish leather stocklot