International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) Unselective, Unsustainable, and Unmonitored Trawl Fisheries Situation Analysis is a research project analysing the impact and management of ‘unselective, unsustainable, and unmonitored’ (UUU) trawl fisheries across three countries in Asia (China, Vietnam and Thailand). The project is managed by the IUCN, in collaboration with two lead authors, Dr. Yvonne Sadovy and Duncan Leadbitter.
The research project is a ‘situation analysis’, which IUCN uses to provide thorough, evidence-based examinations of important issues. These reports do not provide recommendations but serve as a resource for stakeholders empowered to make or influence relevant decisions and policies.
In 2021, Dr. Yvonne Sadovy was an author on the report ‘Sink or Swim: The future of fisheries in the East and South China Seas’, which warned of the dangers of ‘feed-grade fishing’. This refers to fish which are caught only to be produced into ‘fishmeal’ for the feeding of aquaculture and livestock. Growing demand for fishmeal has driven the expansion of ‘unselective, unsustainable and unmonitored’ (UUU) fisheries, which will catch fish and invertebrates indiscriminately in large quantities, usually with destructive methods such as bottom trawling.
Historically, a significant portion of global marine fisheries catch has been used for the production of animal feed (27 per cent over 1950-2010, by weight). This is particularly significant in East Asia – China is one of the world’s top three fishmeal producers, and is also the biggest global importer of fishmeal, supporting its aquaculture industry which accounts for around 62 per cent of global aquaculture production.
This feed-grade catch has been nicknamed ‘trash fish’, a term used to denote that it has no economic value. However, not only is that false (a significant portion are juveniles of commercially valuable fish such as groupers and snappers) but it undermines the ecological value of small species, invertebrates, and juvenile fish. The indiscriminate removal of these species from the ecosystem could have catastrophic impacts on the ecosystem, as well as commercial fisheries.
The urgent need for more information on the impact of these fisheries is why Synchronicity Earth’s Ocean Programme has supported the situational analysis of UUU trawl fisheries, particularly focusing on Asia. It is hoped that the evidence base developed through this work will be an important tool in advocating for, developing, and implementing improved fisheries management in the region and globally.