Ocean food production key to food security, research finds

ocean food
© iStock/AlexRaths

New research has found that, with improved management and fishing practices, the ocean could provide more than six times the food resources it does currently.

The ‘Future of food from the sea’ study, conducted on behalf of the High Level Panel for a Sustainable Ocean Economy, investigated the potential of ocean resources to contribute to global food production. Researchers found that the nutritional content of fish and seafood, which tend to be high in essential vitamins, minerals and other nutrients, could provide extensive benefits to food security; and that – with appropriate management reform, implementation of technological innovations and reasonable assurance of sustainable practices – the ocean could be exploited for more than two thirds of the animal protein necessary to feed the world’s population.

High Level Panel Expert Group representative Christopher Costello, lead author of the paper, said: “The ocean has great untapped potential to help feed the world in the coming decades; and this resource can be realised with a lower environmental footprint than many other food sources. Yet ocean health and ocean wealth go hand-in-hand. If we make rapid and far-reaching changes in the way we manage ocean-based industries while nurturing the health of its ecosystems, we can bolster our long term food security and the livelihoods of millions of people.”

The study particularly identified mariculture, the cultivation of marine species in the ocean or simulated ocean environments, as a potential source for increased food production. Increased production of mariculture species which do not require direct feed inputs, such as mussels and seaweed, could result in augmented food supplies while providing additional environmental benefits such as improved water quality and coastal resilience.

Manuel Barange, Director of FAO Fisheries and Aquaculture Policy and Resources Division and High Level Panel Advisory Network participant, said: “To fulfil our aspirations of creating a more equitable, prosperous and food secure world, the global community must work together to end overfishing, improve global fisheries management and prioritise low impact mariculture approaches. This would bolster food security and help eradicate hunger, the lynchpin for achieving the UN Sustainable Development Goals.”

The report highlighted the importance of maintaining sustainability in ocean-based food production; and laid out a set of recommendations for policymakers and producers, including implementing fisheries reform and adhering to existing goals on mitigating climate change.

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