The Hustle

Seafood waste: A billions-losing issue with billions-earning potential

global seafood waste

Olivia Heller

Let’s get the grossest part out of the way: Eel guts. Lobster viscera. Salmon blood.

…OK, it’s safe now. (And by the way, if you think reading those words sucked, just imagine smelling them.)

The problem we’re talking about here is a simple one: Experts project anywhere from 25% up to a whole half of all harvested seafood in the US winds up in dumpsters. (The UN estimate for the global seafood supply: 35% wasted.)

The scale of the issue

In the US alone, commercial fisheries brought 8.6B+ pounds of seafood to port, worth $6.5B, as of 2021. That’s a ton o’ tuna — and the best-case scenario may be losing one-fourth of it.

So, what can be done? In Maine — a valuable seafood market responsible for 82% of US lobsters — some enterprising startups are looking to convert that waste into value, per Portland Press-Herald:

This shouldn’t be a hard pitch

Producing waste isn’t necessarily losing the seafood industry money today, but finding secondary usages for their scraps could offer additional revenue streams.

Bristol Seafood, which told the Press-Herald it’s been marine-waste-free for two years, models that potential monetization: its fish remnants are ground up into pet food, its fish bones turned into fertilizer, and its leftover scales add shimmer to lipsticks and nail polishes.

Another part of the equation: Grocery store lighting, oddly enough. Most seafood has a short shelf life, with US grocers trashing 55m+ pounds of fish annually. Finding the right lighting can extend freshness — and dampen unappetizing fishy smells enough to increase sales.

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