From Bycatch to ‘BuyCatch’: Reduction fisheries and their implications

Abhilasha Sharma, Trisha Gupta, Ishaan Khot, Muralidharan M, Naveen Namboothri

Reduction fisheries refers to the use of fish catch to produce fishmeal and fish oil that are used as high-protein feed, largely by the aquaculture and poultry industries. The feed is usually sourced from small pelagic fish species, such as sardines and anchovies, mostly through highly mechanized and non-selective fishing methods, like trawlers and purse seines. These fishing gears also catch large volumes of non-target species along with target species, known as bycatch. The growing demand for feed over the decades has encouraged fishers to supplement their income by utilizing bycatch for reduction, which is often composed of juveniles of commercial species and, in some instances, endangered fauna such as sharks and rays. Unchecked harvesting of these species for reduction fisheries can put enormous pressure on marine habitats, food webs and can endanger the sustainability of commercial fish populations.  

The reduction industry also competes with small scale fisheries for low value species that are otherwise destined for local consumption. This directly impacts the food security of local fishing communities. In addition, any policy decision about the reduction industry is tied to the livelihoods of thousands in the supply chain, including women, migrant labourers and marginalized communities.

Based on previous work in Malvan, Maharashtra, we have now initiated a larger project to characterize reduction fisheries in major fishing harbours along the Indian coastline. We aim to illuminate possible ecological, economic, and social impacts through an interdisciplinary approach. This understanding will help in addressing the emerging gaps and informing management actions to mitigate its multifaceted implications.  

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