Half a million tonnes of small fish caught along the West African coastline every year are being sent to European countries for products such as cosmetics and pet food after being ground down, according to a new report by the Changing Markets Foundation and Greenpeace Africa.
The report called Feeding a Monster: How European aquaculture and animal feed industries are stealing food from West African communities claims these fish could feed more than 33 million people in the West African region.
Major companies such as France's Carrefour and Leclerc supermarkets, Edeka in Germany and Tesco's and Sainsbury's in the UK, have all been linked to this fishmeal and fish oil trade in the report.
“The fishmeal and fish oil industry, and all governments and companies supporting them, are basically robbing local populations of livelihoods and food. This goes against international commitments on sustainable development, poverty alleviation, food security, and gender equality,” said Dr Ibrahimé Cissé, senior campaigner at Greenpeace Africa.
Alice Delemare Tangpuori, campaigns manager at Changing Markets, told Euronews: "Europe is a major market for the high quality, high value West African fish oil."
"This is really impacting upon the women, fish processors, the artisanal fishermen and on people who are depending on this fish for their food in particular. For example, 70% of people in Senegal are relying on these same fish for their essential protein. And I think that means this is a broken food system. This is very unbalanced."
Tangpuori contacted the major companies it highlighted in the report.
"Well, we gave them the opportunity to respond and I think the main issue here is that European companies and European retailers can no longer ignore this as a major human rights and environmental issue. They need to be rapidly phasing out wild-caught fish for feeding farmed fish and farmed animals in Europe and also elsewhere in the world. And instead, prioritise that fish for direct local, direct human consumption."
Listen to the full interview in the video player, above.