Nearly half of the edible seafood supply in the United States is wasted each year, according to new research from the Johns Hopkins Center for a Livable Future.
Of the 4.7 billion pounds of edible seafood that enter the United States each year, 2.3 billion pounds (47%) are never eaten. The majority of seafood losses -- as much as 63% -- occur at the consumer level, when seafood goes bad before it can be eaten and must be discarded. Up to 16% of losses occur during the retail and distribution process. Bycatch (the unintentional capture of non-target species by fisherman) comprises up to a third of seafood losses.
The wasted seafood contains enough nutrients to satisfy the yearly protein requirements for as many as 12 million individuals, researchers say.
While study authors concede that some waste is inevitable, they recommend limiting bycatch and selling seafood in smaller servings to reduce waste.
"It would generally be preferable for the fish that becomes bycatch to be left alive in the water rather than eaten, and due to seafood's short shelf life, it may be particularly challenging compared to other food items to get the remaining seafood eaten or frozen before it decays," Roni Neff, director of the Food System Sustainability & Public Health Program at Hopkins, says in a news release.
Relief for the harrowing amount of consumer waste could be on the horizon. Earlier this year, Scandinavian researchers introduced a freezing technique that has been able to keep organic salmon fresh for a month without the use of preservatives.
The research is published in the November issue of the journal Global Environmental Change.