March 8, 2021By Liza Mayer
Scientists and policy experts want to put it front and center
Scientists and policy experts say fish is largely missing in key global food policy discussions and decision-making because policymakers view fish predominantly as “just a natural resource that provides income and livelihoods.”
The group said fish should instead be viewed as food – and a critical source of unparalleled nutrition at that – so it could move to the front and center of policy discussions.
“Fish has always been food. But in this paper, we lay out an agenda for enhancing the role of fish in addressing hunger and malnutrition,” says Abigail Bennett, assistant professor in the Center for Systems Integration and Sustainability in the Department of Fisheries and Wildlife at Michigan State University.
In the paper titled: “Recognize fish as food in policy discourse and development funding,” Bennett and fellow scientists and policy experts from Duke University, Harvard University, World Bank and Environmental Defense Fund, say that as a result of fish being overlooked, fish is underrepresented in international development funding priorities, including even the World Bank.
They also say that the UN Sustainable Development Goal 2, Zero Hunger, does not mention fisheries or aquaculture by name, nor does it offer specific guidance on fish production systems.
The paper identifies four pillars of suggested action to begin framing fish as food, not just a natural resource:
Promote nutrition-sensitive fish food systems. Current management regimes emphasize the “maximum sustainable yield” for a given fishery. Managing for “optimal nutritional yield” would focus on not just rebuilding and conserving fish populations – an important goal in and of itself – but also on sustainably managing nutrient-rich fisheries.
Govern distribution. Availability, access and stability are key features of food and nutrition security. Even though fish is one of the most traded food commodities in the world, there is limited information about its distribution and links to nutrition security. There is also a need to promote equitable distribution of capital and property rights to access fisheries, particularly that recognize the importance of small-scale fisheries and roles women play in fishing and aquaculture sectors.
“Fish as food” framing. Sustainable fisheries and aquaculture are key to feeding the world and alleviating malnutrition, and already provide valuable nutrition and livelihood contributions. Including a nutrition lens when illustrating the multiple benefits of sustainable fisheries production can help to elevate the importance and impact of fish as a key component of the global food system and to ensure that we do not fall behind in global food security targets.
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