Fish waste – it is not just the fisher’s problem!

18th September 2017

Food loss and waste is a huge global issue, with the Food and Agricultural Organisation (FAO) estimating in 2011 that one-third of food produced for human consumption is lost or wasted globally, which amounts to about 1.3 billion tonnes per year. This wastage occurs throughout the food supply chain, from initial production down to final household consumption, ultimately leading to less food being available for all. It is also representative of the waste of the resources that go into producing food such as land, water, energy and other inputs. Australia alone wastes $8 billion worth of food per year.

Fishing is not immune to this issue, a recent paper published by Dirk Zeller et al. (2017), Global marine fisheries discards: A synthesis of reconstructed data, concludes that about 10% of the global fish catch over the past decade has been thrown away. As bad as this might sound – it is almost half of what was estimated to be discarded in the 1990s. Fish waste at this level is considered as production loss and, according to the FAO, waste continues to occur at the post-harvest, processing, distribution and consumption stages of the food supply chain.

The FAO looked at the level of waste of five key commodities and products (grain, seafood, fruits and vegetables, meat and milk) throughout the five main stages of the food supply chain. Most of the food waste across all commodities occurs at the consumer end of the supply chain – with a whopping 33% of seafood wasted at this stage. With regards to the rest of the supply chain, 11% of seafood is production loss, 0.5% of seafood is lost at the post-harvest handling and storage phase due to spillage and degradation during icing, packaging, storage and transportation after landing, 5% is lost at the processing and packaging stage during canning or smoking and 9.5% is lost in the distribution and market system such as wholesale markets, supermarkets, retailers and wet markets.

Since the 1990s, commercial fisheries have come a long way towards reducing production loss through investment in more selective fishing gear technology and better fisheries management. However, seafood waste throughout the rest of the food supply chain also needs to be addressed with particular emphasis on the retail and consumer ends of the supply chain.