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Oceans could be key to future food security

Wednesday, November 27, 2019

A new report finds that, with better management and technological innovation, the ocean could provide over six times more food than it does today - more than two thirds of the animal protein that will be needed to feed the future global population, according to estimates from the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO). The Future of Food from the Sea report was written by the High Level Panel a Sustainable Ocean Economy, a group of world leaders, with the authority needed to trigger, amplify and accelerate action for ocean protection and production in policy, governance and finance and was published at the FAO International Symposium on Fisheries Sustainability in Rome.

The report examines the current status and future potential of food production from the ocean. It finds that the ocean is uniquely positioned to contribute to food security due to the highly nutritious nature of seafood, which contains essential vitamins, minerals, long chain omega-3 fatty acids and other nutrients not found in plant-based or terrestrial animal proteins. With reform, capture fisheries could produce as much as 20% more catch compared to today and up to 40% more than projected future catch, under current fishing pressures. Yet, the largest potential gains for food production lie in the sustainable expansion of marine aquaculture. Accelerating the production of aquaculture species, such as seaweed and mussels, that do not rely on direct feed inputs could contribute to global food supply while improving water quality, creating habitat for wild fisheries, and contributing to coastal resilience. Aquaculture species that are fed on fishmeal and fish oil derived from capture fisheries, such as fish and crustaceans, can also significantly contribute to future protein supply, yet only if alternative feeds are fast tracked by the sector, and environmental effects can be minimized.

Manuel Barange, director of FAO Fisheries and Aquaculture Policy and Resources Division and High Level Panel Advisory Network participant, said that “to fulfill our aspirations of creating a more equitable, prosperous and food secure world, the global community must work together to end over-fishing, improve global fisheries management and prioritize low-impact aquaculture approaches. This would bolster food security and help eradicate hunger, the lynchpin for achieving the U.N. Sustainable Development Goals.”

The report identifies the main barriers to increasing food production from the ocean, including key environmental, economic and regulatory issues and proposes a realistic set of actions to overcome them. It also provides a framework that leaders and scientists can use to inform policy decision-making and implementation, according to their regional or local contexts. Importantly, the report highlights that producing more food from the sea will depend not only on actions and reform within the fisheries and aquaculture sector, but also global action to address climate change, habitat degradation and pollution and improve ocean governance.

This is one of a series of sixteen blue papers to be published between now and June 2020. Each paper offers a robust fact base to inform the work and the final recommendations of the High Level Panel for a Sustainable Ocean Economy in 2020.

Download the report here.

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