1. Health & Lifestyle

Blue Food Systems: Solution to End World Hunger While Tackling Climate Change

Shivam Dwivedi
Shivam Dwivedi

Aquatic Foods haven't been taken into consideration by researchers and policymakers but now it’s time to recognize and harness them to end world hunger. Recently, an unprecedented review of the aquatic foods sector has uncovered how fisheries & aquaculture can play a crucial role in delivering healthy diets and more sustainable, equitable & resilient food systems across the world.

Benefits of Blue Food Systems:

  • Aquatic foods were found to rank more highly than terrestrial animal-sourced foods in terms of their nutritional benefits and potential for sustainability gains.

  • Many blue food species are rich in important nutrients. Compared to chicken, trout has approximately 19 times more omega-3 fatty acids; oysters and mussels have 76 times more vitamin B-12 and five times more iron, and carps have nine times more calcium.

  • These foods are especially important for women, who were found to benefit more than men from increased consumption in nearly three times the number of countries studied.

  • Apart from this, on average, the major species produced in aquacultures, such as tilapia, salmon, catfish, and carp, were found to have environmental footprints comparable to chicken, the lowest-impact terrestrial meat. Small pelagic species like sardines and anchovies, bivalves, and seaweeds all already offer lower stressors than chickens.

Research Findings:

Five peer-reviewed papers in the journal 'Nature' highlight the opportunities to harness the vast diversity of aquatic, or 'Blue Foods' in upcoming decades to resolve the problem of malnutrition, lower the environmental footprint of the food system, and provide livelihoods.

"People are trying to make more informed choices about the food they eat, in particular the environmental footprint of their food," said Ben Halpern, a Marine Ecologist at UC Santa Barbara's Bren School of Environmental Science & Management, who with colleagues examined the environmental sustainability of aquatic foods, the potential for the growth of small-scale producers and the climate risks that face aquatic food systems.

"For the first time we pulled together data from hundreds of studies on a wide range of seafood species to help answer that question. Blue foods stack up really well overall and provide a great option for sustainable food".

The research highlights that global demand for blue foods will roughly double by 2050, and will be met primarily through enhanced aquaculture production rather than by capture fisheries.

The research found that blue food systems facing the highest risk from climate change are also typically located in those regions where people rely on the most and where they are least equipped to respond and adapt to climate hazards.

"Blue foods are much more diverse than typically thought, and so too are the many communities of small-scale fishers who are often overlooked despite providing the majority of blue food people eat," said Beatrice Crona, co-chair of the BFA and deputy science director at the Stockholm Resilience Centre.

"Few, if any, countries are developing their blue food sector to provide ecological, economic, and health benefits to its full potential," said Rosamond Naylor, BFA co-chair and founding director of the Center on Food Security and the Environment at Stanford University. "This assessment aims to provide the scientific foundation for decision-makers to evaluate trade-offs and implement solutions that will make blue foods an instrumental part of an improved food system from local to global scales."

More than 2,500 species or species groups of fish, shellfish, aquatic plants, and algae are caught or cultivated globally for food, providing livelihoods and incomes for more than 100 million and sustenance for one billion.

(Source: University of California, Santa Barbara)

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