The over-exploitation of small fish

In recent years, consumers have been urged to eat smaller fish because many populations of larger predatory fish are in decline.

However, a new study published in the journal Science argues that “Halving exploitation rates would result in much lower impacts on marine ecosystems, while still achieving 80 per cent of MSY [maximum sustainable yield].”

Little fish play a pivotal role since they mainly eat tiny plankton and are in turn food for predators such as large fish, whales or seabirds. Small fish account for more than 30 per cent of world fish production and are a key food source for many people in developing nations. [read full article]

Although one third of the fish caught worldwide are small fish, only about 10% of that is directly consumed by people. Nearly 90% of the small fish catch is converted into fish meal or fish oil for use as animal feed for pigs, chickens, and farmed fish. This practice is wasteful because “on average, it takes three to five pounds (1.36 to 2.27 kg) of fishmeal to produce one pound (0.45 kg) of farm-raised fish.” Most forage fish are high in omega 3 fatty acids, so it makes more sense for humans to consume these fish directly. [read full article]

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