Hidden value of freshwater fish as food

The global harvest of freshwater fish is likely 65% higher than the official statistics, according to a new study. Consumption of wild freshwater fish plays a key role in food security and livelihoods in low-income countries. However, records of these harvests appear to be underreported due to ineffective monitoring of subsistence fisheries. Etienne Fluet-Chouinard and colleagues used household consumption surveys to estimate freshwater fish catches in 42 low- and middle-income countries in Africa, Asia, Europe, and South America. The surveys profiled the fish consumed in more than 548,000 households between 1997 and 2014. After accounting for supplies of fish from trade and aquaculture, the researchers found that 9.26 million metric tons (MT) of wild freshwater fish were caught, indicating massive underestimation in the United Nations’ standard statistics for these countries. Furthermore, these “hidden harvests” are equivalent to the total annual consumption of animal protein of 36.9 million people, making a far greater contribution to global food security than previously thought. These catches are disproportionately important for poor people, enhancing the importance of ensuring that fishery exploitation from rivers, lakes, and wetlands is sustainable.

Article: Global hidden harvest of freshwater fish revealed by household surveys, by Etienne Fluet-Chouinard, Simon Funge-Smith, and Peter B. McIntyre. Published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

Contact: Etienne Fluet-Chouinard, University of Wisconsin-Madison, WI; tel: 608-224-9849

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