Fresh eyes on an old issue: demand-side barriers to a discard problem
van Putten, I and Koopman, M and Fleming, A and Hobday, AJ and Knuckey, I and Zhou, S, Fresh eyes on an old issue: demand-side barriers to a discard problem, Fisheries Research, 209 pp. 14-23. ISSN 0165-7836 (2019) [Refereed Article]
Discarding is a worldwide problem in small-scale and industrial fisheries alike. A significant proportion of discarded fish are edible, and if high post-release mortality occurs, the practice may seem wasteful in the context of food security. There are different reasons for discarding which can be related to demand-side issues (e.g. market preferences), supply-side issues (e.g. on-board storage capacity), and management regulations (e.g. size limits). We carried out analyses to determine why discarding was occurring in a trawl fishery operating in southern Australia’s Great Australian Bight. Currently up to 56% of the fishery catch may be discarded – of which a considerable portion are edible species. The economic viability of the fishery was also considered by revenue from both target species and bycatch species based on a typical vessel. Our research found there are no supply-side barriers and that discarding in this fishery is driven by demand-side barriers. Without addressing demand-side issues for discards, our economic analysis shows that this fishery may be economically challenged and in the broader context, this issue may compromise the long-term supply of fresh Australian fish. Much of the focus to deal with fisheries discards has been directed at the catch sector through development of technical modifications of the fishing gear. However, to help address the discard issue it is important that all supply chain participants, including consumers, understand and contribute to solutions. Our results suggest that if more emphasis was placed on the market and consumer end of the seafood supply chain, the discard problem could be better addressed. We suggest a range of initiatives from government, industry, NGOs and seafood consumers. Technical and industry-led approaches such as sustainability through programs and certification requiring fisheries to meet standards is only part of the story. Consumer awareness regarding their role in creating sustainable fisheries and sustaining locally important fisheries can be enhanced by selecting a wider choice of seafood for consumption.
bycatch, Great Australian Bight, trawl fishery, economic analysis, net profit, market barriers