Rising exports of fish meal and fish oil from West Africa to Europe and Asia are depriving millions of Africans of food, Greenpeace said Tuesday.
In a report, the environmental group said 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.
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.
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.