Seafood Waste: In Numbers

It’s a hard number to stomach, but nearly half of the edible U.S. seafood supply is lost each year. Most of the waste stems from consumers, while additional waste is due to bycatch – catching unintended species of fish, turtles and other creatures and discarding them. A smaller percentage is lost in distribution and retail operations.

These findings come from new research by the Johns Hopkins Center for a Livable Future (CLF), published in the November issue of Global Environmental Change.

“Food waste in general is a source of concern at Hy-Vee,” said Pat Hensley, senior vice president of governmental affairs. “We’re continuously working to combat the issue. Our focus is on working with our suppliers and employees to match supply and demand and to identify other methods of reducing shrink. Given the value of seafood, both economically and a source of healthy protein, anything we can do to reduce waste is time well invested.”

Hy-Vee is not alone in its concerns about the sustainability of the world’s seafood resources. In the U.S. 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.

The Johns Hopkins study analyzed the seafood waste issue by focusing on the amount of seafood lost annually at each stage of the food supply chain and at the consumer level. It found that the amount wasted each year is roughly 2.3 billion pounds. Of that waste, the study found that 330 million pounds are lost in distribution and retail, 573 million pounds are lost when commercial fishers catch the wrong species of fish and then discard it (bycatch) and a staggering 1.3 billion pounds are lost at the consumer level.

For more information, you can read details of the study here: http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0959378015300340 and here http://www.jhsph.edu/news/news-releases/2015/nearly-half-of-u-s-seafood-supply-is-wasted.html

Author: Kenan Judge

I’m Kenan Judge, and I am the group vice president of meat and seafood operations for Hy-Vee, and have been in the industry for 37 years. I’m also a member of the Sustainable Seafood Committee for the Food Marketing Institute. Part of my job at Hy-Vee is to respond to increased customer demand for sustainably caught seafood, but also help move the industry forward in this area.