Nearly one in four people on the planet does not have access to nutritious food. But the latest ‘State of World Fisheries and Aquaculture’ (SOFIA) report from the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) outlines a ‘blue transformation’ with the potential to reduce critical Food Safety.
Aquaculture production reached a record 122.6 million metric tons in 2020 and has the potential to contribute more to human nutrition than it currently does, according to the report that FAO released on June 29 during the United Nations Ocean Conference in Lisbon.
The sustainable expansion of aquaculture and better management of fisheries form the backbone of the report’s blue transformation vision, which aims to maximize global capacity to achieve the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) of here 2030.
We must “accelerate actions to ensure food security while preserving our natural resources”, he said, noting that at present, “the world is not on track to eradicate hunger and malnutrition and achieve the SDGs”.
Since 1995, the SOFIA report has enabled policy makers, scientists and civil society to delve into the global fisheries and aquaculture sectors. fish stocks in the world since 1974. It provides data, analysis and projections that inform international decision-making.
The new report brings data that has become available since the publication of the last SOFIA report, in 2020. According to it, more than 58 million people depend on direct employment in fisheries and aquaculture for their livelihoods.
That figure jumps to 600 million when counting indirect workers and their dependents, Manuel Barange, director of FAO’s Fisheries and Aquaculture Division which produces the report, told a press conference in Lisbon. announcing the publication of the report.
We need to find and nurture new and better production methods that take into account not only efficiency, but also fish and water health.
Bryton Shang, CEO, Aquabyte
About half of them are women and more than 84% are based in Asia, which continues to dominate both wild fisheries and aquaculture, accounting for 70% of global aquatic animal production.
Fisheries and aquaculture production has increased by about 3% since 2018, reaching a record high of 214 million metric tons in 2020, with a first-sale value of about $406 billion, according to the report. Growth was driven by a 6% increase in aquaculture production – farmed aquatic animals and plants, such as fish, crustaceans and algae – over the same period, while the capture of wild fish fell sharply. by 4.5%, largely due to the repercussions of the Covid-19 pandemic.
According to the report, the number of sustainably fished marine fish stocks has continued to decline, further decreasing by 1.2% between 2017 and 2019. Less than 65% of stocks are now fished at biologically sustainable levels, compared to 90% in the 1970s. The report classifies the vast majority of them, over 57% of all stocks, as “maximally sustainably fished” and only 7% of stocks as “underfished”.
“Basically, globally, the report makes the case for more blue and sustainable protein,” Bryton Shang, CEO of a San Francisco-based aquaculture tech startup called Aquabyte, told Mongabay. “It underscores that we need to find and nurture new and better production methods that take into account not only efficiency, but also fish and water health.”
Can more responsible fishing and aquaculture feed the world?
The UN estimates that the world’s human population will reach 10.9 billion by the end of this century. “So the big question is, how are we going to feed so many people?” Chris Ninnes, CEO of the Netherlands and UK-based Aquaculture Stewardship Council (ASC), which oversees the independent certification of farmed seafood products that meet environmental, social and labor standards, said in Mongabay.
Aquatic foods, both grown and fished, will be essential to feed the growing human population, according to Barange. They are much more efficient “at turning food into flesh” than land-based production of animal protein, he said. For example, to produce 1 kilogram (2.2 lbs) of beef requires between 5 and 12 kg (11-26.5 lbs) of feed, while 1 kg of Atlantic salmon requires only 1.1 kg (2 .4 pounds) of food. Aquatic animals also produce fewer greenhouse gases, Barange said.
On the aquaculture side, production needs to increase by 35-40% by 2030 to “meet the global demand gap for aquatic food”, according to the report. But we have to do it in a sustainable way, otherwise the oceans won’t remain productive and the added pressure on our terrestrial food systems “will be very detrimental to our environment as a whole,” Barange said.
The CSA standards align with seven of the 10 targets of SDG 14, which aims to “conserve and sustainably use the oceans, seas and marine resources for sustainable development”. The SOFIA report is “incredibly valuable” to the aquaculture sector and serves as a benchmark for the work of the ASC, Ninnes said.
However, there are “a lot of things we haven’t done right” in the five decades that aquaculture has been our fastest growing food production system, according to Barange.
The research illustrating how aquaculture practiced unsustainably can be detrimental to ecosystems is vast: fish farms often pollute aquatic systems with uneaten food, fish waste and antibiotics, and escaped fish can weaken wild gene pools and introduce diseases into wild stocks. And shrimp farming is known to destroy mangroves and salt marshes.
Sheila Heymans, executive director of the Belgium-based marine science policy think tank, the European Marine Board, says aquaculture is currently a non-starter in terms of sustainability. “Feeding fish to fish is really unsustainable,” Heymans told Mongabay, referring to the common practice of feeding wild-caught fish to farmed fish. “Until we get this sorted, we won’t move forward with sustainable aquaculture.”
Governance and policy reforms top the SOFIA report’s list of fixes needed for aquaculture to become sustainable and grow. Other key areas for transformative action are: innovative financing, reducing reliance on wild-caught fishmeal in aquaculture feed; better biosecurity and disease control; use digital technologies to streamline inventory management; reuse, reuse, recycle and recover waste; and genetic improvement of fish for faster growth and resistance to climate change and disease.
Companies and research centers are already innovating in production, food and digitization. For example, Aquabyte combines artificial intelligence and photography technology with fish welfare, aiming to provide farmers with the underground data they need to reduce feed use, pollution and impacts. negative effects on the ecosystem while raising heavier fish. People are experimenting with algae, grains, and even insects and bacteria as alternatives to fishmeal foods. And the Green Aquaculture Intensification in Europe project has developed a way to turn fish farming waste into biofertilizers and pet food.
Aquabyte’s Shang said he believed a sustainable future for aquaculture was “absolutely realistic”. Norwegian fish farms are already beginning to demonstrate sustainable aquaculture at scale, he said, largely thanks to enabling regulations and support from technological advances.
Yet he and many others are impatient. “There’s a lot of talk around sustainable aquaculture, but not enough initiatives to put it into action,” Shang said. “Enough talking, more action!” »
The SOFIA report also seeks to increase catches of wild stocks to feed humanity. He notes that effective fisheries management, where it exists, succeeds in rebuilding biologically sustainable fish stocks. This “gives us a clear signal on what we have to do: we have to manage 100% of the resources effectively. And if we do, then they will become sustainable,” Barange said.
If we can achieve a blue transformation towards an environmentally, economically and socially sustainable aquatic food value chain, the report says, wild fisheries could bring us an additional 16.5 million metric tons of seafood annually. and healthier oceans.
To effectively manage wild fisheries, the report says we need more, better analyzed data. It also calls for stricter regulation and increased capacity to enforce management measures.
Members of the UN and the World Trade Organization (WTO) have been trying to negotiate multilateral frameworks to regulate how we fish and allocate rights to ocean resources for years, in some cases decades.
This is a minimum requirement to achieve sustainable wild fishing, said Heymans of the European Maritime Council.
“Without these agreements, we won’t get there,” she said, warning against watered-down solutions such as the recent agreement on banning harmful fisheries subsidies, reached by members of the WTO at the 12th Ministerial Conference held in Geneva in June. Members could not reach consensus on certain rules aimed at reducing overfishing, so they simply removed them from the agreement. They will come back to the rules tabled at the next ministerial conference, but that may not happen for another two years. “We are running out of time for the SDGs and for humanity,” Heymans said.
Barange said he was fully confident improvements would be made in both areas, but it could take a long time “because nothing is happening fast in the world.” The FAO did not respond to Mongabay’s request for comment on the amount of investment that might be needed to achieve the blue transformation.
Fresh from the North Atlantic Seafood Forum held in Norway at the end of June, Shang said the seafood industry was looking “overwhelmingly” at the need to produce fish more sustainably. But the challenge is so vast that much more needs to be done to enable technologies to keep pace with global demand and a growing population, he said.
“This report reinforces why these factors matter,” he said. “Sustainability is the rising tide that lifts us all.”
This story was published with permission from Mongabay.com.