It seems that the term ‘catch-and-release’ has taken on an entirely new meaning in today’s global food economy—and not a particularly good one. According to a recent report by the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) of the United Nations, a staggering 35 percent of fish caught for food are never actually eaten. In fact, around a third of the world’s oceans are currently being overfished, which is especially harmful in developing regions across the globe, where residents depend heavily on fish to survive.
“There’s too much pressure on marine resources,” Manuel Barange, director of the FAO fisheries and aquaculture department, told Reuters on Monday. “We need significantly more commitments from governments to improve the state of their fisheries.” Barange believes that at the current fishing trajectory, the entire continent of Africa will be forced to import its fish in the future, due to lack of financial support, feed, and fish supply.
The root causes of the fish waste problem are human error and poor refrigeration, which both lead to rotting fish unsuitable for human consumption. Additionally, some fish are too small to sell at the market, and others are of a less desirable or profitable species. Unfortunately, those fish also get tossed back.
The report also states that current fish consumption is at a record high—which is exactly as terrible as it sounds. In a grim summation, more people are eating fish now than ever before, but at the same time, more than a third of fish killed for food are being wasted. Aquaculture, or fish farming, is one culprit behind this recent spike in global fish consumption. However, in many countries that rely on aquaculture to feed their citizens, there isn’t much regulation or legislation surrounding the practice.
Some companies and advocacy organizations such as The Better Fish and Love the Wild are beginning to invest in sustainable aquaculture in an effort to mitigate waste and the environmental impact of fish farming. But it’s important to remember that food waste doesn’t end with fish. According to ReFED, annual global food waste comprises about one third of global food production. (In America, food waste accounts for around $218 billion each year.) And on a planet where over 10 percent of the population is hungry, wasting a third of any readily available food isn’t just bad—it’s unacceptable.
This article originally appeared on VICE US.