Sustainability and Food Supply: Most Seafood Is Wasted On the Consumer Level
Even though seafood is a popular menu item, nearly 47 percent of the U.S. supply is wasted each year. Food waste related to future global sustainability has long been a concern so researchers Johns Hopkins Center for a Livable Future (CLF) examined each stage of the seafood supply chain and concluded that the greatest loss occurrs at the consumer level.
In their study, recently published in Global Environmental Change, researchers break it down even further. The domestic and imported U.S. edible seafood supply equals roughly 4.7 billion pounds per year. This does not include exported fish. From this supply, 2.3 billion pounds of edible seafood is wasted as it moves from catch to consumers. When the amount of waste is broken down, 330 million pounds are lost to distribution and retail, while 573 million pounds are lost to unwanted bycatches. However, the highest percentage of seafood waste can be directly attributed to consumers who discard 1.3 billion pounds annually.
To put this in perspective, researchers explained that this amount of waste could provide the annual protein requirements for 10 million men or 12 million women.
"If we're told to eat significantly more seafood but the supply is severely threatened, it is critical and urgent to reduce waste of seafood," David Love, study leader from CLF, said in a news release.
Waste reduction has the potential to support increased seafood consumption without further stressing aquatic resources, Roni Neff, director of the Food System Sustainability and Public Health Program at CLF, noted. She further explained that returning bycatches to the water and focusing on prevention strategies could reduce waste and create a sustainable seafood system.
However, in order for waste to successfully be reduced, measures have to be taken along every step of the way: From fishing, to production, processing, packaging, and finally, the consumers. The researchers recognize that loss cannot be completely avoidable, but they do hope that the significance of their estimates will stimulate a response.
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