As global food demand is expected to grow by almost 60 percent by 2050, there’s an urgent need to feed the future world population in a way that doesn’t put too much pressure on the planet. According to five new studies, blue food could play a key role in feeding the world sustainably.
Blue food refers to anything that has been captured or grown in the water. As shown by the five peer-reviewed studies, tapping into the potential of fisheries and aquaculture could be an essential component in our efforts to deliver healthy diets and create more sustainable and resilient food systems across the world.
As highlighted by the research papers, global demand for seafood is expected to double by 2050. This increase in demand will need to be met with more aquaculture and farming instead of traditional fishing which, when done unsustainably, has been linked to environmental degradation.
By investing in new technology and improving practices at fisheries, the researchers estimate that the seafood supply could increase yearly by eight percent — that’s about 13.6 more tonnes of seafood in supply, which would help reduce world hunger by 166 million cases.
“For the first time we pulled together data from hundreds of studies on a wide range of seafood species,” says author Ben Halpern, a marine ecologist at UC Santa Barbara’s Bren School of Environmental Science & Management.
Not only is seafood more sustainable than food sources linked to on-land farming, but it’s also more nutritious. For instance, trout has 19 times more omega-3 fatty acids than chicken, while oysters and mussels are 76 times richer in vitamin B-12 and have five times more iron and carp has nine times more calcium, according to the authors.
Directing our efforts at slashing production costs and increasing accessibility of blue foods, “there will likely be a shift away from land-based foods like chicken, beef, and dairy,” explains Halpern.
“I think what made us really excited is knowing that aquatic food could be a useful solution to combating malnutrition, and really showing that comprehensively for the first time,” added Halpern.
With that said, relying on the ocean for our food has its problems, with fishing being regarded as one of the leading drivers of declines in ocean marine animal populations. According to WWF, “Catching fish is not inherently bad for the ocean, except for when vessels catch fish faster than stocks can replenish, something called overfishing.”
However, as noted by an author of one of the BFA studies, there are plenty of opportunities for reducing the impact of existing blue food systems, such as tweaking our diets to include more species with lower environmental footprints.
Source study: Nature — Compound climate risks threaten aquatic food system benefits