In recent years, nations (other than the U.S.), have taken steps to prohibit the discarding of marine fishery bycatch. The amount of seafood discarded back into the oceans from fishing vessels worldwide is approximately 10% of the total annual catch with the trawl fisheries for shrimp and demersal finfish accounting for over 50% of the discards (these two types of fishing methods represent approximately 22% of the total annual worldwide catch).
Canada, Norway, Iceland, New Zealand and the EU have implemented actions to prohibit the discarding of certain bycatch in their marine fisheries management plans.
While the U.S. has not yet taken actions to implement similar fishery management plans prohibiting discards, NOAA has recently released a draft Action Plan for Fish Release Mortality Science. In the simplest of terms, part of NOAA’s draft action plan is to determine which bycatch species cannot survive after being discarded back into the sea.
By doing so, NOAA may identify a seafood resource that can be utilized and therefore not wasted. If this happens, the U.S. will join with other nations in not wasting a valuable marine source of protein that can be used directly for human consumption or indirectly by being utilized for feedstocks for both aquaculture and agriculture.
The bottom line is that in a hungry world with an expanding population, it is unconscionable to waste a food resource such as bycatch that stands little chance of surviving as discards.
Not wasting the wondrous bounty from our seas is definitely a sustainability goal that all nations of the world need to support.
Now is the time for international cooperation to reduce bycatch and fully utilize seafood species that cannot survive as discards.
Such cooperation needs to address fisheries in both EEZs and on the high seas.
A world population that is expanding toward 10 billion by the year 2050 needs to incorporate actions to eliminate food waste as part of their food security strategy. Prohibiting certain fishery discards should be a part of such action plans.
Hopefully NOAA will implement in the near future some sort of discard ban to prevent seafood waste based on the best science and conscience.
Director of Sustainability Initiatives
Sea Port Products Corp.