Global hidden harvest of freshwater fish revealed by household surveys

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Authors Etienne Fluet-Chouinard, Simon Funge-Smith, Peter B. McIntyre
Journal/Conference Name Aquaculture
Paper Category
Paper Abstract Consumption of wild-caught freshwater fish is concentrated in low-income countries, where it makes a critical contribution to food security and livelihoods. Underestimation of inland harvests in official statistics has long been suspected due to unmonitored subsistence fisheries. To overcome the lack of data from extensive small-scale harvests, we used household consumption surveys to estimate freshwater fish catches in 42 low- and middle-income countries between 1997 and 2014. After accounting for trade and aquaculture, these countries collectively consumed 3.6 MT (CI, 1.5–5.8) more wild-caught freshwater fish than officially reported, reflecting a net underreporting of 64.8% (CI, 27.1–103.9%). Individual countries were more likely to underestimate (n = 31) than overestimate (n = 11) catches, despite conservative assumptions in our calculations. Extrapolating our findings suggests that the global inland catch reported as 10.3 MT in 2008 was more likely 16.6 MT (CI, 2.3–30.9), which accords with recent independent predictions for rivers and lakes. In human terms, these hidden harvests are equivalent to the total animal protein consumption of 36.9 (CI, 30.8–43.4) million people, including many who rely upon wild fish to achieve even minimal protein intake. The widespread underreporting uncovered by household consumption surveys indicates that inland fisheries contribute far more to global food security than has been recognized previously. Our findings also amplify concerns about the sustainability of intensive fishery exploitation as degradation of rivers, lakes, and wetlands continues apace.
Date of publication 2018
Code Programming Language R
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