FAO Symposium Discusses the Future of Fisheries and Global Food Security
UN Photo/M Guthrie
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The High Level Panel on the Sustainable Ocean Economy released a paper at the Symposium that finds improving fisheries management and governance could result in two-thirds of the animal protein needed to feed future global populations.

Participants supported the “development of joint integrated biodiversity and food security objectives” and recognized that the SDGs and the post-2020 biodiversity framework offer opportunities to design, implement and monitor joint objectives.

Participants called for changing rhetoric around small-scale fisheries to “develop a positive narrative highlighting their contribution to food security and resource stewardship.”

Organized by the Food and Agriculture Organization of the UN (FAO), the International Symposium on Fisheries Sustainability discussed opportunities to reform the capture fisheries sector to contribute to global food security, eradicate hunger, promote gender equality, and achieve the SDGs. At the event, the High Level Panel on the Sustainable Ocean Economy released a blue paper that analyzes the current status and future potential of food production from the ocean.

The Symposium convened from 18-21 November 2019, in Rome, Italy. The Forum focused on the theme, ‘Strengthening the Science-Policy Nexus’ and aimed to identify pathways to strengthen the science-policy interface in fisheries production, management and trade based on sustainability principles. Panelists discussed opportunities for the fisheries sector to respond to challenges and support the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and the UN Decade of Ocean Science for Sustainable Development (2021-2030).

The High Level Panel released a paper titled ‘The Future of Food from the Sea,’ at the Symposium. The paper finds that the ocean could provide more than six times the food it does today with improved management and technological innovation. In comparison with current fishing projections, the report stresses that reforming the world’s capture fisheries by ending overfishing and improving global fisheries management could result in 20% more catch compared to today and 40% more fisheries catch than current projected future catch. This amount is over two-thirds of the animal protein needed to feed projected future global populations. In addition, the paper emphasizes “highly nutritious nature of seafood,” which contains essential vitamins, minerals, omega-3 fatty acids and other nutrients not contained in terrestrial animal proteins or plant-based foods. The report also highlights the potential of the sustainable expansion of marine aquaculture to enhance food security and help eradicate hunger, in line with the SDG 2 (zero hunger).

Reforming the world’s capture fisheries could result in 20% more catch compared to today and 40% more than currently projected future catch. 

In the paper, the Panel identifies barriers to increasing food production from the ocean and proposes actions to overcome them, including a framework to inform policy decision-making and implementation. In addition to reforming the fisheries and aquaculture sector, the paper stresses the need for global action to improve ocean governance and address climate change, habitat degradation and pollution. For example, accelerating the production of mussels, seaweed and other mariculture species can contribute to the world’s food supply while contributing to coastal resilience, improving water quality and creating wild fisheries habitat. The Panel further advises that “many policies that enhance ocean food provision come with trade-offs” and recommends policymakers consider the pros and cons associated with different policy actions, including inaction.

Symposium participants supported the “development of joint integrated biodiversity and food security objectives” that recognize trade-offs and acknowledge that the SDGs and the post-2020 biodiversity framework offer opportunities to design, implement and monitor joint objectives. They emphasized the importance of improving the ability to monitor and report on sustainability, including by drawing on a diverse set of knowledge and incorporating information on human-ecological ecosystems.

On food security, participants called for ensuring that aquatic food reaches those that need it most and developing relevant messaging to encourage the consumption of nutritious and sustainably produced aquatic food. They supported including aquatic food in food systems policies in recognition of its potential to address malnutrition in all forms and further supported improving utilization and stability of aquatic food supply, including through innovations. They also suggested changing rhetoric around small-scale fisheries to “develop a positive narrative highlighting their contribution to food security and resource stewardship,” building and supporting small-scale fisheries organizations to ensure the “aquatic majority” can participate in land, ocean and water resource planning development and governance, and recognizing the role of women and making both sexes responsible for achieving gender equality.

Other key symposium messages focused on, inter alia: improving transparency in the fisheries sector and developing information collection systems and fisheries management; integrating market-based mechanisms that advance sustainability into fisheries management; allocating property rights to improve the economic performance of fisheries; mainstreaming gender-inclusive policies to increase the well-being and working conditions of women in fisheries; and improving access to credit, finance and insurance, especially in the small-scale sector. Participants further called for reducing and eliminating harmful subsidies and investing in fisheries development and management for the economy, the environment and food security.

FAO will develop the Symposium’s key messages into a technical document that synthesizes the information from the sessions and makes recommendations on how to better connect evidence and policy to ensure sustainable fisheries management. The document will be shared with the 34th session of the FAO Committee on Fisheries (COFI) in July 2020. [Symposium Website] [Ocean Panel Press Release] [Blue Paper Webpage] [Publication: The Future of Food from the Sea] [Symposium Key Messages] [Symposium Presentations] [High Level Panel Website]

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