Transforming blue food systems is a win-win for people and the planet

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Can blue foods help protect the planet and cope with the looming crisis of how to feed a rapidly growing population? The United Nations, which made water-based foods one of the pillars of their special summit on food systems this week, thinks so. But with a third of our oceans overexploited, we must act now to harness its potential for future generations.

With a world population expected to reach 10 billion by 2050 and hundreds of millions of people already undernourished, the food of our oceans holds enormous potential for alleviating hunger. However, this potential can only be unleashed if governments work together to create sustainable and well-managed food systems.

The Blue Foods Assessment (BFA) released last week provides one of the most comprehensive insights to date on how blue foods can play a vital role in addressing the combined challenges of climate change, sustainability development and malnutrition.

One of his key articles found that fish, shellfish and algae have more nutritional benefits and sustainability gains than foods of terrestrial animal origin. For example, compared to chicken, oysters and mussels contain 76 times more vitamin B-12 and five times more iron. Blue foods also offer opportunities to reduce the environmental footprint of animal protein compared to terrestrial production.

However, as our ocean is already under enormous pressure and the growth in demand for blue foods is expected to approximately double by 2050, the sustainable management of ocean resources is crucial for the benefits of these aquatic food sources to be reaped. .

The urgency of this question is specified in another of the scientific articles published within the framework of the BFA. The study, carried out by some of the world’s foremost food systems researchers, is not getting out of hand. Without the help of better policy and governance, he argues, the shocks to Small-scale fisheries and aquaculture could threaten the food and nutrition security of millions of people around the world. Those in regions currently most vulnerable to food insecurity and the impact of climate change face the highest risks.

But this problem is not an insoluble equation. We already know what works. We know, for example, that tackling overfishing is a win-win for the planet and for people. Fish stocks can rebuild and rebuild if managed carefully, providing more people with the nutrients they need for healthy lives. In fact, it is estimated that 16 million tonnes of additional catches could be generated each year if all wild capture fisheries used sustainable practices. The MSC’s own analysis, where I am the managing director, suggests that this would meet the protein needs of an additional 72 million people around the world each year.

Patagonian toothfish, Icelandic cod and Cantabrian anchovy have all seen their stocks rebound in recent years and this month the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN) announced that four commercial tuna species are coming together. were restored through the application by governments of more sustainable fishing quotas and successfully combating illegal fishing.

At a time when we need more success stories like this, however, many governments find it difficult to cooperate on fisheries management measures that will ensure healthy fish stocks for future generations. Take the situation in the North East Atlantic, where some of the richest nations on the planet have consistently failedd to find a consensus on how to share the quotas for herring, mackerel and blue whiting. As a result, catch quotas for these fisheries exceed scientifically recommended limits necessary to ensure their long-term sustainability, and these fisheries have consequently lost their certification to the MSC sustainability standard.

History shows us that removing more fish from the ocean than can be replenished leads to the collapse of stocks and ultimately has a negative impact on the fishing communities that depend on them. the sea for their livelihood. Yet despite the mistakes of the past, this problem persists – the Mediterranean, for example, remains the most overexploited sea in the world. Despite the good news for some tuna species, many individual tuna stocks remain at risk and regional management authorities are struggling to agree on international measures to manage these stocks in a long-term sustainable manner.

Governments have a responsibility, on behalf of the public, to protect our oceans for present and future generations. As climate change, population growth and overfishing converge to create a perfect storm that threatens the future health of our aquatic resources and the billions of people who depend on them, it is time to revitalize the global approach to wealth management. of our oceans. . The world sees the United Nations Food Systems Summit as an opportunity for policymakers to decide on meaningful, coordinated and cooperative change. Hope they deliver.

Rupert Howes is Managing Director of the Marine Stewardship Council (MSC).


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