Press release: Harnessing aquaculture for healthy diets

Fisherman Feeds The Fish In A Commercial Farm In Mekong River, Nongkhai. Farmers Feeding Fish In Cages, Mekong River. The Tilapia For Feeding Fish In Northeast Of Thailand.

Healthy people and a healthy planet: Can aquaculture help transform our food systems?

15th February 2021 –  The Global Panel on Agriculture and Food Systems for Nutrition is today announcing the launch of its new brief,  Harnessing aquaculture for healthy diets.  

The brief, produced by an independent team of leading international experts, presents evidence on how aquaculture can contribute to more resilient and more sustainable food systems; enhance the diets and health of populations through improved nutrition; provide new employment and trade opportunities; and reduce the pressure on capture fisheries.   

Aquaculture has a clear role to play in supporting the challenge of providing healthy diets which are produced more sustainably, particularity in low- and middle-income countries.” He also noted “however it is often overlooked in the global discourse on food system transformation.”

– Global Panel Chair, Sir John Beddington

Aquaculture is arguably the fastest growing agricultural sub-sector, with global production projected to reach 105 million tons per year by 2029. Global fish consumption has also grown by 3.1% per year since the 1960s, outpacing growth in consumption of other animal source foods, which grew by 2.1% per year. The projected demand for fish is expected to increase by 16.3% by the end of the decade. This is creating pressure on capture fisheries, which are being overfished and under threat from climate change. Estimates indicate that over one third of fish stocks are being fished beyond biologically sustainable levels, rising from 10% in 1974. 

The brief shows that aquaculture, if managed sustainably, could provide a viable alternative to support capture fisheries alongside more sustainable practices, and help reduce our reliance on terrestrial protein sources. 

Aquaculture can also support the provision of healthy diets. Fish is a rich source of protein, omega-3 fatty acids and micronutrients. For many poorer populations, fish may be the most accessible and affordable animal-source food.  

“I believe there is considerable potential for many countries in Africa to capitalise on the opportunities and benefits presented by aquaculture”. Although the scale is small compared to Asia, it is experiencing rapid growth. Since 2000, the number of jobs linked to aquaculture in Africa has more than tripled (from 100,000 to 386,000).”

– Rhoda Peace Tumusiime Global Panel member and Former Commissioner for Rural Economy and Agriculture, African Union Commission  

The brief also highlights the many employment and economic opportunities which aquaculture could offer, particularly in low- and middle-income countries. Around 20.5 million people globally were employed in aquaculture in 2018, with around a fifth being women. Fish is one of the most traded food commodities globally (US$153 billion in 2017), growing at 4% per annum.  

In the new brief, the Global Panel presents a set of recommendations to harness science and technology and create a better policy environment to promote sustainable aquaculture. It also highlights a series of risks and challenges which must be addressed if aquaculture is to extend its contribution such as reducing loss and waste and developing more sustainable feed options.  

Download the brief here