The swim bladders (called maw) of fish play an important role in enabling the animals to float in the water column. By adding or removing air the fish can adjust its buoyancy to stop it sinking, or floating. Swim bladders are made from collagen and have a variety of human uses including isinglass (for removing impurities from wine and beer), traditional medicine, food and, in the past, condoms.
Using as much of a fish as possible to avoid waste is good practice but ensuring that catches are controlled is needed irrespective of what parts of the fish are used. In some cases, the demand for maw is so high that unregulated fishing is threatening both fish and bycatch species. Furthermore, unscrupulous buyers are driving the take of too many fish and depriving fishing villages of fish for the future.
The trade in fish maw is commonly very secretive and little is known abut the types of species used, where and how they are caught and how (and where) the trade operates.
SFACT is providing funding for an international online workshop to gather the knowledge and advice of experts from Africa east to Asia. The aim is to a develop an overview of the state of knowledge of this fish product, the trade and the status of the fisheries involved.