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Rampant exports of fish meal hurt food security in Africa

Much of West Africa's fishing grounds are already overexploited and illegal fishing is a persistent problem, says environmental group Greenpeace

Fish meal is made in factories dotted along the West African coast, and is predominantly sold as feed for fish farms in the developed world. (Mumtahina Tanni, Pexels)

Rising exports of fish meal and fish oil from West Africa to Europe and Asia are depriving millions of Africans of food, Greenpeace said on Tuesday.

The environmental group pointed out that over half a million tonnes of fish used to produce fish meal and fish oil in the poor region could feed some 33 million people instead. The report is titled Feeding a Monster: How European aquaculture and animal feed industries are stealing food from West African communities. 

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Fish meal is made in factories dotted along the West African coast, and is predominantly sold as feed for fish farms in the developed world. Fish oil serves a similar purpose.

Much of West Africa's fishing grounds are already overexploited and illegal fishing is a persistent problem. Greenpeace said West Africa's trade in fish meal and fish oil had grown tenfold between 2010 and 2019 -- from about 13,000 tonnes to over 170,000 tonnes.

The report carries research of the fishmeal and fish oil (FMFO) trade exchange between the FMFO industry in West Africa and the European market. It has traders, aqua- and agrofeed companies from countries like France, Norway, Denmark, Germany, Spain, and Greece. It also studies supplyhttps://lifestyle.livemint.com/food/discover/how-the-pandemic-empowered-fisherwomen-of-senegal-111620715814467.html chain links between seafood processors/distributors and farmed fish producers that have been sourcing aquafeed from companies involved in West African FMFO trade in recent years, and well-known retailers from France (Carrefour, Auchan, E.Leclerc, Système U, Monoprix, Groupe Casino), Germany (Aldi Süd, Lidl, Kaufland, Rewe, Metro AG, Edeka.), Spain (Lidl Espana), and the United Kingdom (Tesco, Lidl, Aldi).

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Most fish oil and meal is exported to Europe and Asia.

The report cited "severe consequences for local populations", explaining that the industry undermined food security across Mauritania, Senegal, The Gambia, Mali and Burkina Faso.

The main species used in the industry are small fish such as sardinella and bonga, which Greenpeace said constitute a vital source of animal protein for many in the region.

The group recommended that governments phase out fish oil and meal production from fish fit for human consumption, among other measures.

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