With better ocean management, the world could get six times more food from the sea than it does today. This is according to a new expert report, commissioned by the High Level Panel for a Sustainable Ocean Economy, written by authors including Stanford’s Roz Naylor, who partners with the Center for Ocean Solutions on our Oceans & Food initiative.
The new paper examines the current status and future potential of ocean food production, finding that the ocean is uniquely positioned to contribute to food security. This is large because seafood is highly nutritious, containing essential vitamins, minerals, omega-3 fatty acids, and other nutrients not found in plant-based or terrestrial animal proteins. The paper continues to explain that with reform, capture fisheries could produce as much as 20% more compared to today, and up to 40% more than projected future catch under current fishing pressures. The largest potential gains for food production actually lies in the sustainable expansion of marine aquaculture, or mariculture, like seaweed, clams, and mussels.
The paper also identifies key barriers to increasing ocean food production, including key environmental, economic and regulatory issues, along with key actions to address these challenges. It also provides a framework for leaders and scientists to use to inform policy decision-making and implementation, according to regional and local contexts. Producing more food from the sea depends not only on fisheries and aquaculture actions and reform, the paper notes, but also global action to address issues like improving ocean governance and tackling pollution, habitat destruction, and climate change.
Christopher Costello, lead author of the paper, said: “The ocean has great, untapped potential to help feed the world in the coming decades, and this resource can be realized with a lower environmental footprint than many other food sources. Yet ocean health and ocean wealth go hand-in-hand. If we make rapid and far-reaching changes in the way we manage ocean-based industries while nurturing the health of its ecosystems, we can bolster our long-term food security and the livelihoods of millions of people.”
This paper is part of a series of 16 Blue Papers, commissioned by the High Level Panel, to explore pressing marine and economic challenges. Together the Blue Papers summarize the latest science, technology, policy, governance and financial thinking about how to move into a more sustainable and prosperous relationship with the ocean. They are written by over 160 leading experts from 47 countries around the world, and will all be released before the UN Ocean Conference in Lisbon in June 2020.