Post-harvest losses in small-scale fisheries

FAO Fisheries and Aquaculture Technical Paper. No. 550

Post-harvest losses in
small-scale fisheries

Case studies in five sub-Saharan African countries


Gbola Akande
Assistant Director (Research)
Nigerian Institute for Oceanography and Marine Research
Lagos, Nigeria


Yvette Diei-Ouadi
Fishery Industry Officer
Products, Trade and Marketing Service
Fisheries and Aquaculture Policy and Economics Division
FAO Fisheries and Aquaculture Department
Rome, Italy

Rome, 2010

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© FAO 2010

Akande, G.; Diei-Ouadi, Y.
Post-harvest losses in small-scale fisheries: case studies in five sub-Saharan African
FAO Fisheries and Aquaculture Technical Paper. No. 550. Rome, FAO. 2010. 72p.


In 2006, the Products, Trade and Marketing Service of the Fisheries and Aquaculture
Department (formerly the Fish Utilization and Marketing Service) in FAO designed
a regional post-harvest loss assessment (PHLA) programme to:

  • develop a core of regional experts in fish loss assessment;
  • generate fish loss data in fisheries of socio-economic importance;
  • produce practical guides for fish loss assessment for extension officers and
    fishery operators;
  • update the Ward and Jeffries (2000) manual; and
  • provide normative guidance to support the implementation of the FAO Code
    of Conduct for Responsible Fisheries.
This regional programme began in October 2006 and lasted 18 months. It
aimed to build on past initiatives and develop tools for practical loss assessment in
artisanal fisheries. The programme provided capacity building for fishery officers
in qualitative and quantitative fish loss assessments methods, planned support,
and supervised the implementation of loss assessment studies in five sub-Saharan
African countries (Ghana, Kenya, Mali, United Republic of Tanzania and Uganda).
Data were generated on quality and physical losses – the main types of losses
identified – and quantified by researchers using three assessment methods.
The fieldwork indicates that post-harvest fish losses in small-scale fisheries
occur at all stages in the fish supply chain from capture to consumer. Huge physical
and quality losses were found to occur in some supply chains assessed in all the
countries, with quality losses reported to account for more than 70 percent of
total losses. Concurring data are that physical losses seldom exceed 5 percent in
some fisheries, but the findings from assessments of the Lake Victoria sardine
(Rastrineobola argentea) fishery indicate much higher losses are occurring during
the rainy season when poor drying conditions prevail.
Although the nutritional losses and human health problems were not the focus
of the study, it can be easily admitted that these financial losses add to the food
safety and quality concerns in small pelagic species (such as anchovies in Ghana),
which form a noticeable part of the landings in question and are known to be
prone to histamine accumulation under conducive uncontrolled time/temperature
To try and reduce or prevent losses, various coping strategies are used by
fishermen, processors and traders with varying degrees of success. Despite these,
as has been demonstrated by the study, losses still occur, hence the need for careful
and continued technical and policy initiatives by international and national agencies.
Balancing technical interventions to improve fish quality with the potential increase
in selling prices, associated with better quality fish with the demand for cheaper
fish by low income consumers, is an important dilemma. In this situation, a policy
intervention to encourage access to alternative cheap proteins to improve the food
security of low income consumers would help mitigate any downbeat effects from
price increases.
In conclusion, governments and development agencies should ensure that
changes in post-harvest fisheries-related policy and practices take stock of the loss
assessment tools, information generated and experience of the programme. Fish
loss assessments should be incorporated into national data collection systems and
used regularly to inform policy.


Preparation of this document (Download 397 kb)
Tables, figures and annexes
Acronyms and abbreviations
Executive summary

Introduction (Download 729 kb)


Participating countries
Training workshops and fieldwork
Types of fish losses assessed
Loss assessment process
Site selection
Fisheries covered
Ranking of losses
Data analyses and reporting
Key data on fish losses
Types and magnitude of losses
Causes of losses
Variables influencing loss levels
Coping strategies
Other coping strategies
Trends of losses
Stakeholders affected and their perceptions

Loss reduction intervention initiatives

Additional outputs of the PHLA 

Capacity building
Specific country outputs

Lessons learned



ANNEXES (Download 397 kb)

Annex 1 – Physical loss of cured fish in the tropics
Annex 2 – List of participants in the PHLA programme
Annex 3 – Proposed method/approach for qualitative phase
Annex 4 – Fish loss assessment report structure and content
Annex 5 – LT and QLAM report structure
Annex 6 – Recommendations of the final workshop of the regional post-harvest fish loss assessment programme