Fish, seaweed and other aquatic food from the world’s oceans and freshwater can help reduce malnutrition around the world, a major new assessment is reported this week.
- Researchers say those trends are fueled by resource-intensive food production and inadequate diets, underscoring the need for food systems that can provide nutrition while minimizing further damage to the planet.
- Blue foods – algae, seaweed, fish and other aquatic animals rich in micronutrients – that have been largely ignored or lumped together by food policy makers may be part of the solution, according to the Blue Food Assessment. The researchers write.
big picture: “People view food as agriculture and agriculture as land-based food systems,” says Christopher Golden, an epidemiologist and ecologist at the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health. published in the letter Nature.
- Land based animal agriculture mainly revolves around cows, chickens, pigs, lambs and some other animals.
- “But with aquatic foods, there are thousands of potential species with different nutrients and environmental impacts,” Golden says.
- At the Stockholm Resilience Center in Sweden, Beatrice Krona, Beatrice Krona The desire to eat small nutritious fish like sardines or bivalves with low environmental impact will play a big role. Told New Scientist. Krona co-authored a paper which found demand for fish Already it is expected to almost double by 2050.
key takeaways: a new database Omega-3 fatty acids, vitamins A and B12, calcium, iodine, zinc, calcium and other nutrients determine the amount of 3,753 species of aquatic foods – an unprecedented level of detail.
- Researchers led by Golden found that clams, as well as small fish like salmon, carp, and sardines, herring and anchovies, are richer in those seven nutrients than beef, lamb, chicken and other land-based foods. Animals at the center of our food systems.
- They also found high growth in aquatic food production – driven by innovation and investment in the cultivation of aquatic foods – could lead to an 8% increase in production and a 26% reduction in price each year by 2030.
- They write that about 166 million people may not get enough micronutrients from excessive consumption of aquatic foods.
- The researchers also found that women and children are particularly likely to benefit from increased consumption of aquatic foods, as nutrients such as omega-3 fatty acids are important for fetal and child growth and development.
some of the most nutritious According to one, the environmental impact of aquatic foods is also less. separate study Led by Jessica Geffert, environmental scientist at American University.
- Bivalves and seaweeds, which do not need feeding, and some fish – especially sardines and cod – had the least impact on water and land use and greenhouse gas, nitrogen and phosphorus emissions. Farmed bivalves and shrimp generate less emissions than those caught in the wild.
- But while nutrient-rich carp and salmon have the least emissions, carp farming uses the most water, while salmon farming uses the least land and water among farmed fish. “We start seeing tradeoffs,” Geffert says.
yes but: According to the model by Golden, improving global nutrition through blue foods depends on aquaculture, and the aquaculture of some species currently has other environmental costs.
- farmed salmonWater pollution, for example, has been linked to the spread of parasites in wild fish and an overabundance of sardines and other small fish that go into salmon feed, notes New Scientist.
- The environmental impact study also doesn’t look at how blue food production might affect ecosystems and their biodiversity, which should take into account land and water use decisions, Geffert says.
- Climate change also threatens the potential benefits of blue food systems, particularly for wild-caught fisheries in Africa, South and Southeast Asia, and small island states in the Indo-Pacific. separate paper finds.
What are they saying: “These papers show that the world’s waters have the potential to meet at least some of our nutritional needs,” Lawrence Haddad, executive director of the Global Alliance for Improved Nutrition (GAIN), told Nerdshala in an email.
- “A vast number of different food sources are often neglected, but deserve more attention from researchers, governments, businesses and consumers,” he says.
- “It is important to include seafood systems in the global conversation about ending hunger,” says John Virdin, who directs the Oceans and Coastal Policy Program at the Nicholas Institute for Environmental Policy Solutions at Duke University.
what to watch: How prominently blue foods are at the first United Nations Food System Summit next week.