ArticlePDF Available

Is fish a fish - adding fish to the global food sustainability transformation

Authors:
eLETTER
PERSPECTIVEFOOD
Plating up solutions
Tara Garnett
Email: taragarnett@fcrn.org.uk
Science! 16 Sep 2016:
Vol. 353, Issue 6305, pp. 1202-1204
DOI: 10.1126/science.aah4765
Is fish a fish - adding fish to the global
food sustainability transformation
Max Troell1,2, Friederike Ziegler3, Patrik Henriksson2,1
1Beijer Institute; 2Stockholm Resilience Centre, Stockholm University; 3SP Technical
Research Institute of Sweden.
Email: max@beijer.kva.se
Science! 16 Sep 2016: eLetter
The Perspective on food sustainability (T. Garnett, 16 September, 353/6305) gives
valuable insights related to links between dietary choices, environmental impacts and
health. Substituting meat with fish could, as stated, only result in a transfer of impacts. If,
however, fish is caught sustainably, respecting biological limits and using smart fishing
methods, capture fisheries can produce low-impact food without requiring land, pesticides,
fertilizers or irrigation (1). This is unique and fishery is the only large-scale food production
system based on a wild resource. While many wild fish stocks are fully or over-exploited,
global landings could potentially increase by up to 20% if stocks were properly managed
(2).
Half of the seafood eaten globally is farmed, which is more similar to land–based meat
production. Feed production represents a large part of the environmental impacts of both
livestock and farmed fish. Fish, however, invest more of its metabolic energy into growth
than chicken, pigs or cows; as they don’t waste energy on keeping temperature
homeostasis, nor on combating gravity. Fish, both from fisheries and aquaculture, have
eLETTER
therefore repeatedly been shown to outcompete livestock in terms of environmental
impacts (3, 4).
However, fish represents a highly diverse commodity with vastly different environmental
profiles (5,6). It is therefore crucial to push consumption towards the most low-impact
products and production methods. Fish also provides health benefits and remain an
essential source of protein and micronutrients, especially in developing countries (7, 8).
Replacing meat by sustainably sourced seafood products could accelerate the needed
transformation of the food system. Such a strategy does not argue against the needed
general reduction of overconsumption of animal protein, but plating up more seafood at the
expense of meat is an important solution needed to achieve global food security.
References
Gephart et al. 2014 Freshwater savings from marine protein consumption. Environ. Res.
Lett. 9 014005
Costello et al. 2016. Global fishery prospects under contrasting management regimes,
PNAS, 113: 5125–5129.
Pelletier et al. 2011. Energy Intensity of Agriculture and Food Systems. Annual Review of
Environment and Resources, 36: 223-246.
Tilman and Clark 2014. Global diets link environmental sustainability and human health.
Nature, 27:518-522.
Troell et al. 2014. Does aquaculture add resilience to the global food system? PNAS, 111,
13257–13263.
Cao et al. 2015. China's aquaculture and the world's wild fisheries. Science. 347 (6218):
133-135.
Béné et al. 2016. Contribution of fisheries and aquaculture to food security and poverty
reduction: assessing the current evidence. World Development, 79: 177-196.
Beveridge et al. 2013. Meeting the food and nutrition needs of the poor: the role of fish and
the opportunities and challenges emerging from the rise of aquaculture. Journal of Fish
Biology, 83(4): 1067-1084.
... The next section discusses some of the concerns underpinning negative images about aquacultures' interactions with wild fisheries and its dependence on fish for feeds (Jennings et al., 2016;Naylor et al., 2000;Troell et al., 2016) which influence governments' appetite to grow the sector. ...
... Aquaculture and fisheries are generally managed separately (Geffen et al., 2015) yet overlap in supply chain needs (e.g., food health and safety, logistics, processing and trade, among others), thus integrating both sectors in policy would support better alignment of resource management to enable countries to improve progress towards the SDGs. Rethinking development of policy to better integrate the aquaculture and fisheries sectors is timely as governments build national and global food security resilience options to achieve SDG 2 (Jennings et al., 2016;Stead, 2018;Troell et al., 2016) and the other interlinked 16 SDGs. Future research is needed on aquaculture value chains to understand how different participants, production units, regulation, innovation and cost benefits can be better coordinated by governments to respond to regional preferences (Bush et al., 2019). ...
... Governments reliant on vulnerable fisheries to feed its people and provide jobs, are exploring how sustainable aquaculture can help meet the shortfall in food and income generation. While the role of aquaculture in satisfying the global demand for fish is well recognised, there are also some concerns over the potential negative consequences of aquaculture growth for marine fish stocks(Golden et al., 2016;Kristofersson & Anderson, 2006;Naylor et al., 2000;Troell et al., 2016). Aquaculture and other animal food production systems depend on fishmeal as food and primary source of protein, lipids, minerals and vitamins. ...
Article
In a world of nine billion people and a widening income gap between the rich and poor, it is time to rethink how aquaculture can strengthen its contribution to the second UN Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) of zero hunger in our generation. The disparity in the level of sustainable aquaculture development at present, between and within countries, especially regarding human access to farmed aquatic food remains highly variable across the globe. This paper offers a fresh look at the opportunities from using systems thinking and new open innovation measuring tools to grow sustainable aquaculture. Political will in many nations is the main constraint to aquaculture in realising its potential as an: accessible source of micronutrients and nutritious protein; aid to meeting conservation goals; economic prosperity generator where benefits extend to locals and provider of indirect social benefits such as access to education and well‐being, among others. Resources to enable strong partnerships (SDG 17) between academia, civic society, government and industry should be prioritised by governments to build a sustainable aquatic food system, accessible to all, forever.
... The group approach of the food systems provides valuable information in relation to the ties between dietary habits and environmental and health impacts. In this sense, for instance, the replacement of meat of a land source with aquaculture fish would merely imply a transfer of impact (Troell, Ziegler, & Henriksson, 2016). ...
... Nonetheless, food of a marine origin in general, and fish in particular, represent a very diverse product, with very different environmental profiles (Cao et al., 2015;Troell et al., 2014). It is therefore essential to encourage consumption of products with low-impact production methods (Troell et al., 2016). ...
... The substitution of meat with sea products of a sustainable origin could accelerate the necessary transformation of the food system. Such strategy is not contrary to the necessary general reduction of the excessive consumption of proteins of animal origin, but introducing more food of a marine origin at the expense of meat is an important solution that is necessary to achieve world food security (Troell et al., 2016). ...
Article
Full-text available
The knowledge about the real possibilities that current science gives us is basic to support everything that is not negative either for men or for our environment. In this way, it is an advantage to win this battle against hunger with rational use of science advantages. In this paper, we start from the basis that the solution to the problems of hunger requires the multidisciplinary action of sciences and knowledge. We provide a reflection on the possibilities to be considered from disciplines such as ecology, biotechnology, veterinary and aquaculture. The need for ecological studies where the role of human beings as part of ecosystems is considered. In addition, advances in molecular biology and precision agriculture are analyzed, evaluating their advantages and associated problems, as well as understanding the role of veterinary science and animal genetic improvement in the problem of hunger. Finally, the bases the sustainable use of sea products and expectations generated by marine crops are presented.
Article
Full-text available
Data from 4,713 fisheries worldwide, representing 78% of global reported fish catch, are analyzed to estimate the status, trends, and benefits of alternative approaches to recovering depleted fisheries. For each fishery, we estimate current biological status and forecast the impacts of contrasting management regimes on catch, profit, and biomass of fish in the sea. We estimate unique recovery targets and trajectories for each fishery, calculate the year-by-year effects of alternative recovery approaches, and model how alternative institutional reforms affect recovery outcomes. Current status is highly heterogeneous-the median fishery is in poor health (overfished, with further overfishing occurring), although 32% of fisheries are in good biological, although not necessarily economic, condition. Our business-as-usual scenario projects further divergence and continued collapse for many of the world's fisheries. Applying sound management reforms to global fisheries in our dataset could generate annual increases exceeding 16 million metric tons (MMT) in catch, $53 billion in profit, and 619 MMT in biomass relative to business as usual. We also find that, with appropriate reforms, recovery can happen quickly, with the median fishery taking under 10 y to reach recovery targets. Our results show that commonsense reforms to fishery management would dramatically improve overall fish abundance while increasing food security and profits.
Article
Full-text available
Following a precise evaluation protocol that was applied to a pool of 202 articles published between 2003 and 2014, this paper evaluates the existing evidence of how and to what extent capture fisheries and aquaculture contribute to improving nutrition, food security, and economic growth in developing and emergent countries. In doing so we evaluate the quality and scientific rigor of that evidence, identify the key conclusions that emerge from the literature, and assess whether these conclusions are consistent across the sources. The results of the assessment show that while some specific topics are consistently and rigorously documented, thus substantiating some of the claims found in the literature, other areas of research still lack the level of disaggregated data or an appropriate methodology to reach consistency and robust conclusions. More specifically, the analysis reveals that while fish contributes undeniably to nutrition and food security, the links between fisheries/aquaculture and poverty alleviation are complex and still unclear. In particular national and household level studies on fisheries’ contributions to poverty alleviation lack good conceptual models and produce inconsistent results. For aquaculture, national and household studies tend to focus on export value chains and use diverse approaches. They suggest some degree of poverty alleviation and possibly other positive outcomes for adopters, but these outcomes also depend on the small-scale farming contexts and on whether adoption was emergent or due to development assistance interventions. Impacts of fish trade on food security and poverty alleviation are ambiguous and confounded by a focus on international trade and a lack of consistent methods. The influences of major drivers (decentralization, climate change, demographic transition) are still insufficiently documented and therefore poorly understood. Finally the evaluation reveals that evidence-based research and policy narratives are often disconnected, with some of the strongest and long-lasting policy narratives lacking any strong and rigorous evidence-based validation. Building on these different results, this paper identifies six key gaps facing policy-makers, development practitioners, and researchers.
Article
Full-text available
China is the world's largest producer, consumer, processor, and exporter of finfish and shellfish (defined here as “fish”), and its fish imports are steadily rising (1–3). China produces more than one-third of the global fish supply, largely from its ever-expanding aquaculture sector, as most of its domestic fisheries are overexploited (3–6). Aquaculture accounts for ∼72% of its reported domestic fish production, and China alone contributes >60% of global aquaculture volume and roughly half of global aquaculture value (1, 3).
Article
Full-text available
Aquaculture is the fastest growing food sector and continues to expand alongside terrestrial crop and livestock production. Using portfolio theory as a conceptual framework, we explore how current interconnections between the aquaculture, crop, livestock, and fisheries sectors act as an impediment to, or an opportunity for, enhanced resilience in the global food system given increased resource scarcity and climate change. Aquaculture can potentially enhance resilience through improved resource use efficiencies and increased diversification of farmed species, locales of production, and feeding strategies. However, aquaculture's reliance on terrestrial crops and wild fish for feeds, its de-pendence on freshwater and land for culture sites, and its broad array of environmental impacts diminishes its ability to add resilience. Feeds for livestock and farmed fish that are fed rely largely on the same crops, although the fraction destined for aquaculture is presently small (∼4%). As demand for high-value fed aquaculture products grows, competition for these crops will also rise, as will the demand for wild fish as feed inputs. Many of these crops and forage fish are also consumed directly by humans and provide essential nutrition for low-income households. Their rising use in aquafeeds has the potential to increase price levels and volatility, worsening food insecurity among the most vulnerable populations. Although the diversification of global food production systems that includes aquaculture offers promise for enhanced resilience, such promise will not be realized if government policies fail to provide adequate incentives for resource efficiency, equity, and environmental protection. food portfolio management | crop resources | diversity | shocks | global change
Article
Full-text available
Marine fisheries provide an essential source of protein for many people around the world. Unlike alternative terrestrial sources of protein, marine fish production requires little to no freshwater inputs. Consuming marine fish protein instead of terrestrial protein therefore represents freshwater savings (equivalent to an avoided water cost) and contributes to a low water footprint diet. These water savings are realized by the producers of alternative protein sources, rather than the consumers of marine protein. This study quantifies freshwater savings from marine fish consumption around the world by estimating the water footprint of replacing marine fish with terrestrial protein based on current consumption patterns. An estimated 7 600 km3 yr-1 of water is used for human food production. Replacing marine protein with terrestrial protein would require an additional 350 km3 yr-1 of water, meaning that marine protein provides current water savings of 4.6%. The importance of these freshwater savings is highly uneven around the globe, with savings ranging from as little as 0 to as much as 50%. The largest savings as a per cent of current water footprints occur in Asia, Oceania, and several coastal African nations. The greatest national water savings from marine fish protein occur in Southeast Asia and the United States. As the human population increases, future water savings from marine fish consumption will be increasingly important to food and water security and depend on sustainable harvest of capture fisheries and low water footprint growth of marine aquaculture.
Article
Full-text available
People who are food and nutrition insecure largely reside in Asia and Sub-Saharan Africa and for many, fish represents a rich source of protein, micronutrients and essential fatty acids. The contribution of fish to household food and nutrition security depends upon availability, access and cultural and personal preferences. Access is largely determined by location, seasonality and price but at the individual level it also depends upon a person's physiological and health status and how fish is prepared, cooked and shared among household members. The sustained and rapid expansion of aquaculture over the past 30 years has resulted in >40% of all fish now consumed being derived from farming. While aquaculture produce increasingly features in the diets of many Asians, it is much less apparent among those living in Sub-Saharan Africa. Here, per capita fish consumption has grown little and despite the apparently strong markets and adequate biophysical conditions, aquaculture has yet to develop. The contribution of aquaculture to food and nutrition security is not only just an issue of where aquaculture occurs but also of what is being produced and how and whether the produce is as accessible as that from capture fisheries. The range of fish species produced by an increasingly globalized aquaculture industry differs from that derived from capture fisheries. Farmed fishes are also different in terms of their nutrient content, a result of the species being grown and of rearing methods. Farmed fish price affects access by poor consumers while the size at which fish is harvested influences both access and use. This paper explores these issues with particular reference to Asia and Africa and the technical and policy innovations needed to ensure that fish farming is able to fulfil its potential to meet the global population's food and nutrition needs.
Article
Full-text available
The relationships between energy use in food systems, food system productivity, and energy resource constraints are complex. Moreover, ongoing changes in food production and consumption norms concurrent with urbanization, globalization, and demographic changes underscore the importance of energy use in food systems as a food security concern. Here, we review the current state of knowledge with respect to the energy intensity of agriculture and food systems. We highlight key drivers and trends in food system energy use along with opportunities for and constraints on improved efficiencies. In particular, we point toward a current dearth of research with respect to the energy performance of food systems in developing countries and provide a cautionary note vis-à-vis increasing food system energy dependencies in the light of energy price volatility and concerns as to long-term fossil energy availabilities.
Article
Diets link environmental and human health. Rising incomes and urbanization are driving a global dietary transition in which traditional diets are replaced by diets higher in refined sugars, refined fats, oils and meats. By 2050 these dietary trends, if unchecked, would be a major contributor to an estimated 80 per cent increase in global agricultural greenhouse gas emissions from food production and to global land clearing. Moreover, these dietary shifts are greatly increasing the incidence of type II diabetes, coronary heart disease and other chronic non-communicable diseases that lower global life expectancies. Alternative diets that offer substantial health benefits could, if widely adopted, reduce global agricultural greenhouse gas emissions, reduce land clearing and resultant species extinctions, and help prevent such diet-related chronic non-communicable diseases. The implementation of dietary solutions to the tightly linked diet-environment-health trilemma is a global challenge, and opportunity, of great environmental and public health importance.