When unmanaged catch is added to the figures, the number rises to approximately 40 million tonnes of fish and other seafood. Unmanaged catch refers to catch “that does not have specific management to ensure the take is sustainable” (Davies et al. 2009). In European fisheries alone approximately 2.3 million tonnes of fish is discarded in the North Atlantic and the North Sea each year, accounting for about 40 to 60 per cent of all fish caught in Europe (Stuart 2009; Schäfer et al. 2010). Bycatch is especially high in shrimp fisheries with discard rates as high as 95 per cent of the total catch (Clucas 1997). Small-scale fisheries are reported to show considerably lower discard rates than large-scale fisheries. In developing countries, discard percentages of the total catch of small-scale fishing operations have been estimated to be as low as 1 per cent (World Bank 2012). Elsewhere the magnitude of bycatch is high, resulting in extreme losses of food for humans. Based on the global figure of bycatch, it is estimated that the loss of food through bycatch is enough to meet the total protein calorie needs of 370 million people. 6
Although not all bycatch is discarded or suitable for human food and some can be re-fished, bycatch and discards cause an enormous amount of food waste. Converting suitable bycatch to aquaculture feed is one way of reducing fish waste while also increasing fish availability. One estimate suggests that the amount of fish discarded at sea can support a 50 per cent increase in aquaculture production – approximately the same increase needed to maintain per capita fish consumption at current levels by 2050 (Nellemann et al. 2009). Ecosystem approaches to managing aquatic ecosystems The desperate situation of the world’s fish stocks has resulted in a critical review of prevailing practices in fisheries management. For example, many critics argue that the fisheries management within the European Union has largely failed to manage its fish resources sustainably because short- term jobs have been given priority over protection of fish stocks. Within the European Union, the annual fish quotas in recent years have been 48 per cent higher than scientists’ recommendations and this has resulted in 88 per cent of Europe’s fish stocks being overexploited (Schäfer et al. 2010).
6. Estimate is based on findings from Davies et al. (2009), average protein in fish and average daily protein needs for people.