The publication of the Blue Food Assessment (BFA), stating that the demand for blue foods is set to double over the next thirty years, sends a strong and powerful message to policy makers that they must act now, if future generations are to benefit from what has been termed the blue food revolution.
The report gives one of the most comprehensive reviews to date of the role that blue foods could play in addressing the combined challenges of climate change, sustainable development and malnutrition. With the growth in global demand for blue foods set to roughly double by 2050, sustainable management of oceans becomes imperative.
According to the MSC, while aquaculture has an increasingly important role to play, sustainable management of the world’s wild-capture fisheries is also imperative in feeding a growing population. It also provides opportunities to reduce the environmental footprint of animal-protein compared with land-based production.
The MSC’s own analysis suggests that sustainable management of all wild fisheries could allow catches to increase by 16 million tonnes annually, meeting the protein needs for 72 million more people around the world. The MSC points to the successes of effective fisheries management that have been shown by the recovery of fish stocks including Patagonian toothfish, Icelandic cod and Cantabrian anchovy.
‘The Blue Food Assessment demonstrates the huge potential that blue foods – both farmed and wild – have to feed the world’s growing population. It is essential, however, that this growth is sustainable and well managed,’ said MSC Northern Europe programme director Erin Priddle.
‘With the deadline for the Sustainable Development Goals just nine years away, now is a critical moment for policy-makers to act. Climate change, population growth and overfishing are converging to create a perfect storm which threatens the future health of our aquatic resources, and the billions of people that depend on them. Governments have a responsibility on behalf of the public to safeguard our oceans for current and future generations,’ she said.
‘However, we are seeing international fisheries governance under strain as governments struggle to find consensus on how to share fish stocks according to important scientific limits. If we follow the science, experience shows us that we can reap the ocean’s potential to feed and sustain the lives of billions of people while also protecting its incredible biodiversity. But we must not wait until it’s too late.’
She commented that the proportion of overfished fish stocks increases year on year, with 34% now fished beyond sustainable limits, while climate change is also creating new challenges for some of the world’s most well-managed fisheries.
‘Many governments are struggling to agree how to reallocate fishing quotas and prevent overfishing as the distribution of fish stocks moves across geo-political boundaries. The recent suspension of sustainable certification of Northeast Atlantic mackerel, herring and blue whiting fisheries provide the most pertinent examples.’