So called forage fish- small marine fish, such as anchovies - have traditionally been used to stock fish farms with about 20 to 30 million tonnes used to produce fish meal every year. Four million tonnes of which are used in aquaculture to feed carnivorous fish.
This practice has come under fire due to its poor return in food value. Indeed, by feeding the fish direct to humans for consumption - eight times as much protein reaches our dinner plates.
So why arent these fish used for direct human consumption? This question has been addressed by Prof Lauro Madureira in conjunction with the Brazilian Ministry of Fisheries through an innovative and imaginative programme.
The problem lay in getting the public to accept a novel product made from what had previously been termed trash fish.
The answer was simple - large numbers of active and hungry school children without too many preconceived attitudes to the source of their food. Provided they were served a meal which was tasty and sustained them - they would be satisfied. Add to this the fact that fish and their benefits to health are well known; it provided a cheap and sustainable source of dietary protein.
Recognising that products for direct human consumption had to satisfy the dual requirements of low price and high demand Prof Madureira sought answers.
While the anchovy fisheries in the cold waters of southern Brazil could provide a ready and sustainable annual supply of 120,000 tons of fish - in order to be successful the projects challenge was to develop a large scale market for these novel food products.
Madureira worked closely with schools in two cities. As a result 35,000 students tasted, and 70% approved the new product, anchovies canned in tomato sauce, served with pasta or pizza. The product is long lasting and can be easily maintained and transported without the need for cold storage.
Projecting this to the national scale, the 120,000 tonne sustainable catch of anchovy could serve four meals per month during the nine months of the school calendar, to every scholar in the Brazilian school meal programme.
The project has demonstrated an alternative to the practice of producing fishmeal from anchovies in Brazil and can be transformed to generate a new long lasting product, with benefits to fishing fleet, producers and consumers.
This is a major initiative that if implemented widely could have major benefits in other parts of the world.