by Jorge Rojas-Ruiz, Humanitas Global
Ocean-source food production is crucial for future sustainable food supply around the globe because of its nutritional value, resistance to climate change and market accessibility. Currently, 20 percent of animal protein intake for 3 billion people throughout the world consists of fish. An estimated 10 to 12 percent of the world’s population depend on aquaculture as a source for food.
This week, global leaders from the private, public and civil sectors came together at The Hague for the Global Oceans Action Summit for Food Security and Blue Growth. These leaders discussed how to balance conservation efforts with the growth of fishing industries in order to ensure sustainable use of oceanic products. The summit was organized by Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO), the World Bank and the Governments of Grenada, Indonesia, Mauritius, Norway and the United States of America.
Photo credit: www.animals.howstuffworks.com
One of the issues discussions focused on was how the world will ensure food security derived from the sea while maintaining healthy oceans and biodiversity. For example, insufficient monitoring was discussed as a source that threatens environmental sustainability in fish farming and aquaculture. Without monitoring, there is the risk of overfishing and the creation of lifeless regions in the oceanic ecosystem caused by fish waste using up the supply of oxygen in the water. However, fish farming is an asset to the fight for food and nutrition security and therefore we must identify comprehensive strategies that do not sacrifice the sustainability of the ocean’s ecosystem for food production—a crucial element for food security—or vice versa.
According to research from Harvard’s School of Public Health, seafood in general not only provides more protein than cattle, sheep or poultry but it is also rich in vitamins and minerals that help infant brain development and protect against heart disease and strokes. Moreover, as global population rises in the future and stress on land animal and crop farming intensifies due to climate change, land will become scarcer, and seafood sources may play an important role in the world’s capacity to feed over 9 billion people.
A report issued by the U.N. Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) stated that the world is headed towards a “breakdown of food systems linked to warming, drought, flooding and precipitation variability and extremes”. Thus, focusing on fish farming as an alternative to land husbandry is critical for sustained global food and nutrition security in the future.
We must work together in order to protect the ocean’s biodiversity while taking advantage of the benefits it offers for our food and nutrition security. Perhaps there are insights we could learn from The World Economic Forum’s New Vision for Agriculture.
This initiative strives to “provide food security for all, in an environmentally sustainable way while generating economic growth and opportunity”. The New Vision for Agriculture has the vision of enabling farmers to feed their families and their communities without compromising the ecosystem. As production reaches consumers, the agricultural value chain allows individuals to make better choices for their diets while relying on biodiversity in the long-run and generating jobs along the production, transport and market stages of food supply. Such a holistic approach based on the three primary elements mentioned above is relevant to this week’s discussion as stakeholders develop a roadmap to sustainably increase aquaculture outputs without damaging the ocean’s ecosystem in order to meet global demand for nutritious food in the future.
The Global Oceans Action Summit for Food Security and Blue Growth provided a platform for engagement to occur and to help bridge gaps between fish farming industry growth and sustainability. Similarly to the New Vision for Agriculture and other cross-sector initiatives and conferences, there is agreement among stakeholders that if farmers, markets, governments and civil society join forces we might be able to maximize seafood yields while protecting our ocean’s biodiversity and generating regional economic growth. Success will be determined by the ability of stakeholders to cooperate with each other in the long-run; as American innovator and entrepreneur Henry Ford said, “coming together is a beginning; keeping together is progress; working together is success”.