Nearly half of US seafood supply is wasted

28 Sep 2015
The study suggests that 1.3 billion pounds of US seafood supply are lost at the consumer level. Credit: John from Tulsa, USA/CC BY 2.0, via Wikimedia Commons

The study suggests that 1.3 billion pounds of US seafood supply are lost at the consumer level. Credit: John from Tulsa, USA/CC BY 2.0, via Wikimedia Commons

New research from the Johns Hopkins Center for a Livable Future (CLF) suggests that as much as 47% of the edible US seafood supply is lost each year, mainly from consumer waste.

In the US and around the world, people are being advised to eat more seafood, but overfishing, climate change, pollution, habitat destruction and the use of fish for other purposes besides human consumption threaten the global seafood supply.

“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,” says study leader David Love.

The new study analysed the food waste issue by focusing on the amount of seafood lost annually at each stage of the food supply chain and at the consumer level.

After compiling data from many sources, the researchers estimated the US edible seafood supply at approximately 4.7 billion pounds per year, which includes domestic and imported products minus any exported products. Some of the edible seafood supply is wasted as it moves through the supply chain from hook or net to plate. They found that the amount wasted each year is roughly 2.3 billion pounds. Of that waste, they say that 330 million pounds are lost in distribution and retail, 573 million pounds are lost through bycatch discarding and 1.3 billion pounds are lost at the consumer level.

Waste reduction has the potential to support increased seafood consumption without further stressing aquatic resources, says study co-author Roni Neff.

The researchers offer several approaches to reduce seafood waste along the food chain from catch to consumer. Suggestions range from limiting the percent of bycatch that can be caught at the production level to packaging seafood into smaller portion sizes at the processing level, to encouraging consumer purchases of frozen seafood. Some loss is unavoidable, but the researchers hope these estimates and suggestions will help stimulate dialogue about the significance and magnitude of seafood loss.

Wasted seafood in the United States: Quantifying loss from production to consumption and moving toward solutions is published in the November issue of Global Environmental Change.