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Under-utilized Seafood Offers Solution to Global Hunger Crisis

By unlocking the potential of our oceans, we can ensure a sustainable and nutritious food supply while mitigating the challenges posed by a growing population and climate change.

Shivam Dwivedi
Under-utilized Seafood Offers Solution to Global Hunger Crisis (Photo Source: Pixabay)
Under-utilized Seafood Offers Solution to Global Hunger Crisis (Photo Source: Pixabay)

As the global population is projected to reach 10 billion by 2050 and our food systems face increasing strain, it is crucial that we explore innovative solutions to meet the challenges that lie ahead. One often overlooked aspect is the significant contribution that our marine resources can make in addressing these issues.

Covering over 70% of our planet, the ocean not only sustains diverse ecosystems but also provides a vital source of protein for more than 3 billion people worldwide. Yet, governments have predominantly focused on land-based solutions, such as starchy vegetables and red meat production, neglecting the role of seafood in feeding our population.

The consequences of this oversight are profound. The Food and Agriculture Organization's State of Food Security and Nutrition in the World report highlights the health risks associated with calorie-rich, nutrient-poor diets, leading to millions of premature deaths. Furthermore, the overconsumption of red meat contributes to preventable diseases like heart disease, which has become a leading global cause of death.

Recognizing the need for change, the UN and leading scientists are now urging governments to prioritize aquatic foods in their food policies. The Blue Food Assessment, a comprehensive study conducted by over 100 professionals from 25 universities, emphasizes the underutilization of aquatic foods despite their incredible nutritional value.

Consider the potential of wild fisheries. The UN projects that this sector will produce 96 million tonnes of catch by 2030. However, experts estimate that an additional 16 million tonnes could be sustainably harvested without overfishing our oceans. This increased catch could have significant health benefits. A recent analysis by the Marine Stewardship Council, utilizing Harvard University's Aquatic Foods Composition Database, reveals that the availability of 112 million tonnes of seafood could address nutrient deficiencies in millions of people.

For instance, increasing the seafood catch could help alleviate iron deficiencies in 4 million individuals and vitamin B12 deficiencies in 18 million people, benefiting pregnant women and young children. Additionally, sustainable fishing practices could provide enough essential Omega-3 fatty acids (DHA and EPA) found in seafood to meet the daily requirements of 38 million people who currently lack adequate levels. However, it's important to note that increasing seafood availability is just one aspect of the solution. Improving access to these resources, particularly for undernourished populations, remains a critical challenge.

In addition to their nutritional value, wild seafood also holds advantages in the face of climate change. Unlike many other food sources, seafood does not require land or freshwater, resulting in fewer pollutants. Moreover, carbon emissions from seafood production are significantly lower compared to red meat. These factors make sustainable fishing practices and the utilization of wild blue foods an attractive option for addressing future food security challenges.

Realizing the benefits of marine resources requires a fundamental shift in government policies. With a third of global fish stocks still being overexploited, it is crucial that policymakers prioritize effective ocean management as the core of their food strategies. Enabling regulations must be put in place to recognize, consult, and support fishers who are committed to sustainable practices. Building upon the progress made thus far is essential to prevent any regression.

Fortunately, achieving this goal is within reach and aligns with public sentiment. Robust fisheries management, supported by governments, businesses, and fishers, has shown promising results. Recent studies indicate that fish stocks targeted by sustainable fishers are healthier and more resilient compared to those that are not.

Furthermore, independent consumer research conducted across 23 markets reveals a growing demand for sustainably produced seafood, reflecting increasing concern for the future of our oceans.

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