By: Roy Palmer
You know what they say – ‘If you are not leading then you are following’ and that would often apply to many people and organisations in the seafood industry. Sad but true!
The Fishmonger did not attend COP21 in Glasgow, besides not being invited he finds such meetings full of gloom and doom and lacking practical solutions. It has been reported that there were over four hundred private jets at Glasgow Airport carrying only a minute percentage of the audience and that speaks volumes about the lack of comprehension of the subject. Imposing your issues onto others never goes over well when your own actions are arrogant. In the end events like COP21 are just talk fests and if you are waiting for governments to do something then you will be waiting a long time. Remember we are where we are today because of decisions by these same people. Do not forget that ‘common sense is not so common’!
It is easy to get overwhelmed by climate science, carbon sinks, renewable energy, etc and what the questions and answers are. In essence, we must take some blame as we can all be guilty of ‘taking the easy route’ instead of questioning what damage is being done to our planet if we use this product or change our systems and asking about alternatives.
Hopefully, The Fishmonger can spark some action, and you can rise to the challenge – be sure to let us know what you are doing.
The *Blue Food Assessment report was promoted earlier in the year, and it mentioned the crucial involvement that seafood will play in global food security and nutrition and its relationship to climate change. We are already seeing changes in various aspects of our aquatic resources and supply chains due to climate changes, so this report is important to consider. One of the key findings is that ‘increased fisheries and aquaculture production is possible and sustainable, and by 2030 could prevent undernutrition in an additional 166m people worldwide’ – how positive is that!
Also be aware that whilst your governments will be slow to react, the apparent rise of conscious consumers in the marketplace has led to many businesses and brands, particularly those in retail, imposing tighter controls on what they promote on their shelves. This can impact your business so you cannot ignore and need to have your stories ready and be ready to promote your credentials.
A UK processing company was recently reported as saying “We are extremely aware of our role in reducing our environmental impact through emissions, and since 2015, we have reduced our operational emissions (scope 1 and 2) by 52.5%. We understand that there is still much more to be done through the whole value chain, from improving the availability and accuracy of data to the importance of adopting and implementing science-based targets that align with the **Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) recommendations.”
The Fishmonger knows that seafood as a whole has a positive story when it comes to its emissions, but sadly we are not promoting those exceptional stories. We cannot rest with that knowledge and as a global industry, we should be pro-active in collaborating, sharing our stories, information and knowledge and be leaders in sustainable food production.
The report makes a positive statement up front that ‘aquatic foods are a vital component of many food systems yet have received little attention in food policy discourse.’ The description of ‘blue foods’ (animals, plants and algae harvested from freshwater and marine environments) highlights the supply of protein (and we know it is actually far more than a protein) to over 3.2 billion people, contributing a key source of nutrients in many coastal, rural and indigenous communities, and supporting the livelihoods of over 800 million people, the majority of whom work in small-scale systems. Despite their contribution to food systems globally, the report acknowledges that blue foods tend to be underrepresented in discussions about how to feed the world's population sustainably over the coming decades. It would not be the first time that seafood was a last thought which reflects on the lack of global collaboration within the industry.
The ‘blue food’ sector is changing fast and demand for aquatic foods continues to grow at a strong pace despite the gloom and doom you read in the media.
What is difficult for global governments to understand is that the small-scale players that lie at the heart of many aquatic food systems have to grapple with these and many other challenges, including environmental degradation, economic shocks, and limited gender and social inclusion on top of failure of any specific strategies.
Combining FAO and World Bank data, a research document by Rosamond Naylor (Stanford University) et al, estimates that the demand for fish has roughly doubled since the turn of the century and will likely double again by 2050. Focusing on the top two fish consuming countries in the five continents that make up the majority of demand, they estimate that Asia will continue to lead the way in freshwater fish consumption, with the highest demand for freshwater fish in 2050. Added to that is the fact that the majority of the worlds middle class will be constantly moving towards Asia.
Their modelling projections suggest that China will consume a diverse range of species including crustaceans, demersal fish and cephalopods, Ghana and Peru will continue to dominate the consumption of small pelagic fish, and France, Spain, the US, Mexico and Brazil will continue to consume a wide variety of species. Per capita fish consumption in Nigeria is expected to remain low, at one-third of the level seen in Ghana. But given the large and growing size of the Nigerian population, country-level demand is expected to exceed that of Ghana by some margin in 2050.
In an incredibly detailed report on climate risks to aquatic food systems by Michelle Tigchelaar (Stanford University) et al, they combine data on climate hazards, exposure and vulnerability for 219 countries, and show that aquatic food systems of Africa, South and Southeast Asia and the Indo-Pacific are the most vulnerable to face high climate risk by the middle of the century under a high-emissions scenario. Reducing societal vulnerabilities, for instance by strengthening governance, promoting gender equity, and reducing poverty, can lower climate risk by margins similar to meeting global mitigation targets. Missing is the need for more understanding here about the role aquaculture plays and the opportunity it also brings to this issue.
Small-scale players have an essential role in global food and nutrition security, producing two-thirds of aquatic food for human consumption and much of the diversity in produce. Rebecca Short (Stockholm Resilience Centre) et al created a framework for characterizing the diversity of actors in this sector based on seventy case profiles spanning a wide range of geographies and systems. Small-scale fisheries and aquaculture (SSFA) provide livelihoods for over 100 million people and sustenance for ~1 billion people. Players vary widely in terms of inputs and assets, degree of specialization, the markets they serve and the type of management by which they are controlled. Despite this diversity, commonalities emerge. Activities are controlled at a local level by individuals or groups of households. Aquaculture producers often innovate and adapt. Fisher folk tend to engage in cooperative forms of management. The cultural importance of aquatic foods also comes to the fore.
Modern-day governance assumes uniformity in SSFA despite the diverse nature of this sector. The framework can inform adaptive governance actions supporting the diversity and vital roles of SSFA in food systems, and in the health and livelihoods of nutritionally vulnerable people—supporting their viability through appropriate policies whilst fostering equitable and sustainable food systems.
The case profiles demonstrate a multitude of benefits associated with greater awareness of and support for the diversity within and across SSFA systems. SSFA players currently have key roles in families, communities, and nations. Many times, they are ignored in policy decisions yet there is a compelling case for their critical centrality in viable aquatic food systems. The paper highlights that there are trade-offs that policymakers have to navigate to maintain the benefits from continued engagement of SSFA players.
Meeting the needs of global consumers through large-scale industry poses risks for the cultural integrity, equity, nutritional security, and livelihoods provided by SSFA and longer-term actions to redress broader power inequalities, constrain monopolies and support the diversity of SSFA capacities is critical, the report concludes.
A nuanced understanding of the aquatic food sector, with its diverse produce and players, production processes and impacts, demands and vulnerabilities, can yield benefits for people and the planet. In order to realize these benefits, aquatic foods must be engaged into the fold in total food systems discourse and managed as an integral part of these systems.
If managed appropriately, aquatic foods have the potential to make a meaningful contribution to the nutritious, sustainable, and just food systems of the future, particularly in some of the most food-insecure parts of the world.
We can all play our leadership role - that is the challenge for us all.
Comments & References
* The Blue Food Assessment is a high-level international collaboration that brings together over 100 researchers looking at all aspects of aquatic food production.
**Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) - is the United Nations body for assessing the science related to climate change.
Blue food (nature.com)
Harnessing the diversity of small-scale actors is key to the future of aquatic food systems | Nature Food