Ocean Decade Virtual Series: Blue foods, Science for a Sustainable Future

EarthzineFishing, Ocean Decade

Seafood is a rich source of micronutrients

A webinar was held reflecting on why humanity should think deeper on the role of Oceans in its nutrition, and in a sustainable way.

10 May, 2021

Afzalbek Fayzullaev

A webinar on "Blue foods, Science for a Sustainable Future" was held on April 1, 2021 as part of the Ocean Decade Virtual Series. The focus of this webinar was on exploring how to generate a knowledge basis for solutions to optimize the role of the Ocean in sustainably feeding the world’s population. This is important under the currently changing environmental, social and climate conditions to achieve a productive ocean supporting sustainable food supply and a sustainable Ocean economy.

The webinar explored why the Ocean should be used in the world’s diet as well as how to do this sustainably for long periods of time. Under the multiple stresses that the Ocean faces, trying to feed the world’s population will become a sizable challenge. However, with an exponential increase in the world's population, hunger can become more prevalent and a solution must be created to help this famine.

The moderator of the panel was Dr. Shakuntala Thilsted, the Vice Chairwoman for the UN Food Systems 2021. She led the webinar and discussed studies and findings from a number of her prestigious colleagues, ranging from marine engineers to directors.

  1. Vladimir Ryabinin- Executive Secretary of the Intergovernmental Oceanographic Commission and Assistant Director General of UNESCO
  2. Dr. Flower Msuya- Chairperson and Facilitator at the Zanzibar Seaweed Cluster Initiative (ZaSCI)
  3. Manuel Barange- Director of the FAO Fisheries and Aquaculture Division, Honorary Professor at the University of Exeter
  4. Christina Hicks- Environmental Social Scientist at Lancaster Environment Centre
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Seafood is a rich source of micronutrients

Fig. 1: Seafood is a rich source of micronutrients

According to Manuel Barange “food from aquatic animals has been growing at twice the rate of population growth in the last 50 years.” The presence of important micronutrients in aquatic foods is most likely the cause of this increase in fish consumption/production. Micronutrients are things that our body needs in very small quantities but are extremely vital in development and health. It was seen that “over 2 billion people worldwide suffer from a chronic deficiency of micronutrients, a condition known as hidden hunger”(WHO 2014, [1]). To help alleviate this hidden hunger, aquatic food such as fish is the perfect solution since they are seen to be superb sources of micronutrients such as Vitamin D, Iodine, Selenium etc (Figure 1) Additionally, even the byproducts of fish are seen to contain high quality protein and can be even used for medicinal purposes. However, the lack of coordination and sustainable methods of fishing force the areas that need resources the most, to not get any.

According to Christina Hicks, disproportional usage of food from the Ocean is an issue that is deeply woven into policy making. Hicks stated how “policies and practices can and have been designed to mediate these inequities”. To counteract this unfair distribution of foods, she commented that people must “adopt a holistic food system lens” as well as “evaluate policies and practices that support more equitable access”. She went into further detail by stating that a shift in aquaculture is also one of the most vital ways to aid the creation of more sustainable ways to use the sea in feeding the world.  Manuel added that a lot of research is needed as a first step towards shifting away from a culture that has been followed for many decades.

"Research is required on innovations in feeding ingredients and feeding technology, genetic improvement, and diversification and innovation in biosecurity and disease control."

Dr. Flower Msuya also highlighted the need for innovation in technology by stating how “we do not have the appropriate technologies that are really good scientifically and they are also affordable by our farmers.” It is clear that improvements in research are needed in order to find not only ways to use the oceans, but to also make sure that these methods of incorporating the seas in our daily lives are affordable for all people.

The panel also added that in order to optimize the role of the ocean there must be social changes as well. There needs to be increased education about the role of aquatic foods as part of a healthy diet, and to keep the consumption of these within the planetary boundaries so as to not harm the Oceans. To add to this point, Dr. Flower Msuya said how currently our curriculum does not “actually address directly the importance of the ocean and how to use it for production of food through aquaculture and fisheries in the open sea.” Educating and learning more about the challenge at hand is the vital first step that must be taken. Without more people knowing about the intricacies of the Oceans, the challenge of employing the Ocean in our lives will become much more demanding. To have any hope of using the vast seas to solve the even vaster issue of world hunger, partnerships are needed. Manuel Barange firmly stated that

We need “new voices and diverse ones, different voices from different places”. The platform to sustainably use aquatic life in the world's diet is made, but to get any further there needs to be joint effort by all people.

Barange ended his segment on a positive note and said how it was still possible to make these changes for the good of humanity, and ended with by saying:
"We can do this, we need to do this"


[1] "2014 Global Hunger Index - The challenge of hidden hunger", International Food Policy Research Institute: Klaus von Grebmer, Amy Saltzman, Ekin Birol, Doris Wiesmann, Nilam Prasai, Sandra Yin, Yisehac Yohannes, Purnima Menonhttp://ebrary.ifpri.org/utils/getfile/collection/p15738coll2/id/128360/filename/128571.pdf