Fishing has been one of the greatest financial contributors in our economy. In fact, there are so many countries in the world depend on their fisheries as the main national income. This business alone has contributed at least $1.5 trillion annually for the world economy.
No wonder that so many people are assuring their livelihood from this sector. About 12 percent of this world population are indeed working on fishery, and about 90 percent of them are working in the smaller scale of this business.
So, looking on those numbers, no wonder that there are so many fishes caught by fishermen regularly from the ocean. In 2014 alone, about 167 millions tons of fish were caught by the fishermen, converting the sea marine into source of nutrition for billions of people all around the world.
“Since 1961 the annual global growth in fish consumption has been twice as high as population growth, demonstrating that the fisheries sector is crucial in meeting the FAO’s goal of a world without hunger and malnutrition,” said José Graziano da Silva, FAO director general to Independent.
Thus, here it is, fishes have been one of the most valuable natural resources for us. However, not all of those fish are converted into nutrients. Newest research found out that there is a great number of fish caught went missing from our tables. Where did they go?
The Missing 35%
As mentioned before, some fishes are missing from the table. According to newest data from Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) of the United Nations found that 35% of fishes caught every day indeed never be eaten.
35% is a great number, since it means only less than two third of fishes caught by the fishermen can give us the benefits. So, where did they go? Those fishes that never meet our cold plates are actually either thrown back into the ocean by the fishermen or just rot before they can be eaten.
Those which are thrown back into the ocean are the ‘bad’ fishes. Either those fishes didn’t meet the desirable size or just simply the wrong species. The problem is, to recognize the ‘flaw’, we have to sort every single fish caught thoroughly.
It takes so much time to do, and every single second is important for those fishes’ lives since they are taken away from water. During this time, no wonder that many of those ‘unwanted’ fishes die of suffocation because they cannot breathe in the air.
“About a quarter of these losses are bycatch or discards, mostly from trawlers, where unwanted fish are thrown back dead because they are too small or an unwanted species. But most of the losses are due to a lack of knowledge or equipment, such as refrigeration or ice-makers, needed to keep fish fresh,” as reported in The Guardian.
Let Them Rot
It was not the only problem, since the selection phase take some time, even some of those ‘perfect’ fishes die too. It can be connected into the second reason why those fishes never get our warm welcome in the kitchen.
Distribution process is important in food industries, especially for those that demands for freshness. While not many of us care about it, the most important value in a fish is its freshness. Thus, fast distribution process is important in fisheries industry.
But not as simple as it seem, we still cannot distribute fish from the boats of the fishermen to your kitchen that quick. There are so many processes those fishes have to go through first. This is the reason why some of those fishes are rotting before we can eat it.
Like mentioned before, the selection process to get rid of those ‘unwanted’ fishes is the first delayer. This phase is actually both important and unimportant to us. It can help the stability of ecosystem when those unwanted fishes are younger fishes, while it is not really important to use if this process is about getting away of non-specific fish, like getting rid of mackerels from sardines.
After getting through the selection phase, those fishes need to be auctioned first in the market. This is the second delayer in the process. This is when money starts to take the control, people want to sell the fish with the highest price as possible, and the ‘polishing’ process take some more time too.
Is It Over-Fishing?
When we hear about the news, that more than one-third of fishes caught never gets into our plates, it is our natural instinct to blame over fishing. Indeed, taking too much fish from the ocean plays a big role in this disaster.
Not all fishes the fishermen catch can be converted into money. Knowing that there will be some subtraction at the amount of fish they catch, the fishermen don’t want to lose the profits of getting exact number of fish.
“We know the situation, we have the solutions: setting fish catch limits to scientific advice and stopping illegal and destructive fishing,” said Lasse Gustavsson, executive director of Oceana in Europe.
However, over fishing is not the only problem here, there are many other problems too. Most of those fishes are eliminated in vain just because of the ‘polishing’ process. It often take too long time and processes that the risk of letting the fish rot is higher.
More Than Over-Fishing
Do we really need those fish to be ‘polished’? Well, the fact is we don’t have to eat fish in fancy restaurants to get the most of its nutrients. We can get it the most when the fish is in its freshest condition, actually.
But going through all of those processes make the fish we serve on the table mostly is not at its best condition. Education and technology might help to solve this problem, while to make it possible we need the help of the governments.
Educating the fishermen and consumers about the importance of balancing everyday fish consumption and the state of nature is one way. In addition, subsidizing or issuing some regulations to the fishermen and fish distributors to get good refrigerators to prevent the product from rotting is important too.
“There’s too much pressure on marine resources and we need significantly more commitments from governments to improve the state of their fisheries,” Manuel Barange, director of the FAO fisheries and aquaculture department said to Reuters.