Fishing fleets “waste 40% of catches”

Huge volumes of fish go to waste either because they are by-catch -- non-target species -- or because fishing fleets make no effort to record and sustainably manage them, New Scientist reported, citing findings by the environmental organisation WWF. At least 38.5 million tonnes of fish go to waste annually, some 40.4% of the total caught, WWF’s study estimates.


WWF says the international study reinforces the need for a complete change in how fisheries are managed, so that everything taken from the sea is accounted for. A clear and consistent new definition of by-catch also is needed, it said, to avoid existing disparities in how “waste” fish is recorded and accounted for.


“We want to see everything taken out to be managed in some way to make sure we are fishing within the limits of what’s sustainable,” according to the study’s author, Robin Davies of WWF International. Davies suggests that by-catches should include fish that either are unused and thrown back, or fish that are caught but not currently monitored to check for any species in danger.


Davies analysed public fisheries data from 2000 to 2003, covering 44 countries, two oceanic regions (the north-east Atlantic, and the Mediterranean and Black seas) and global tuna and shark-fin fisheries. The waste was greatest in shark-fin fisheries, which typically discarded 92% of non-target species.


There also were disparities in what counted as by-catch. In some parts of the world, non-target fish were utilised. In Asian prawn fisheries, for example, owners paid their deckhands in by-catch fish.


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