Global Nutritional Security Depends on Adequate Fish Catches
Photo Credit: Susan Braun
With the global population predicted to increase to nearly ten billion people by 2050, the world faces the challenge of ensuring that global food systems can supply protein and nutritional value for the world’s people. Fish, and the nutrition it provides, is not only a critical component of global food security but of global nutritional security as well.
A recent article in Nature, “Nutrition: Fall in fish catch threatens human health,” highlights this critical connection between healthy fish catches and nutritional health for the global population, particularly poor populations in developing nations. Declining fish catches are anticipated to leave nearly 20% of the global population (over one billion people) vulnerable to nutritional deficiencies in critical micronutrients by 2050.
People with deficiencies in critical vitamins, minerals, and fatty acids may experience a variety of health risks, including increased mortality and compromised cognitive and immune function. As fish provides an excellent source of critical nutrients, declining global fisheries catches put the health of those that depend on fish as a primary food source at risk.
Key takeaways of the study include:
- Ten percent of the world’s population (approximately 845 million people) may suffer nutritional deficiencies due to declining fish catches
- Fish comprise over 20% of animal protein intake in certain parts of the world, therefore declining fish stocks threaten nutritional health for a significant portion of the global population
- Climate change alone is predicted to reduce global fish catch by potentially 30% by 2050 in certain regions such as the tropics, disadvantaging the global south
Fishery catch declines will disproportionately affect the health of low-latitude and developing countries where nutrition depends most greatly on subsistence and artisanal wild fish catches. These are also areas where weak governance, industrialized foreign fishing, and illegal fishing threaten to have the most impact.
However, there are important steps that can be taken to address the issue of nutritional deficiency and declining fish catches:
- Aquaculture farms can shift production to fish species low in the food chain and increase investment in farming nutritious species for domestic markets
- Fisheries managers can improve ways to differentiate wild and aquaculture data
- Fisheries and aquaculture scientists can collaborate with nutritional and public health experts and economists to address the impacts of global environmental change on human health and increase funding streams to this work
This study makes clear that the importance of good fisheries management extends beyond environmental reasons to include critical dimensions of social well-being. There is more work to be done to ensure the future nutritional health of populations dependent on fish around the world.