90% of fish for fishmeal are food-grade

Back for my first post in a long while. I have recently published a paper that got some exciting news coverage. The takeaway message of the paper was that much of the fish we use for fishmeal is ‘food-grade’ fish and could thus be used for human consumption.

Canned Sardine (Wikimedia Commons, 2011)

There is a common argument that the fish used for fishmeal are fish that no one would eat anyways. However, by making a simple comparison to some previous work looking at whether markets existed (even if they were small), the fish are used for food and are thus determined ‘food-grade’. In many cases, these fish used to be a major part of diets including to the indigenous populations of Peru, and much more recently with salted and pickled herring in Europe.

The underlying data was reconstructed by myself and my co-authors to chart the change of different fish being used for fishmeal or human consumption over time (1950-2010). Studies like this are important to show how our attitudes and acceptability have changed. At the beginning of the time period, the current largest reduction fishery in the world (i.e., Peruvian anchoveta) wasn’t a reduction fishery and was still being used for human consumption. This has changed over time to being used in huge quantities for fishmeal. However, many other fisheries are shifting back to being used for human consumption including Canada’s Pacific herring, Iceland’s Capelin, and Atlantic herring in Europe. Anchoveta is coming back onto the menu as well, although still faces challenges including government regulations on what fishing fleets can land fish for human consumption or fishmeal.

IMG_0255While this research made headlines with this finding, the finding is really a reminder that we used to eat these fish and we still can. If you’re excited by this, go find some local anchovies, herring, or sardines to eat. That’s what I did.

If you’re interested, here are some of the articles that were published on this research:

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