Re: The Role of Sustainable Fisheries and Aquaculture for Food Security and Nutrition - E-consultation to set the track of the study

Petra Spliethoff CDI, Netherlands

More attention for fisheries in food security policies and strategies

A lack of statistical information underlining the role and contribution of the fisheries sector to the economy, hampers national and regional recognition of the value and contribution of the sector with respect to food security, employment and economic development. Likewise information on the nutritional importance of fish especially for young children, is not taken into account when designing food security strategies.

Beside production and processing of fish, its distribution to the domestic and regional markets is an important economic activity, involving several thousands of traders and retailers, many of them women. While these activities may serve a social purpose, such as providing food and employment for the family, relatives and friends, its primary objective is economic - to generate income.

The growing demand for fish and international trade in fish and fish products, presents both opportunities and threats to the small scale fisheries sector and livelihood strategies among fishing-dependent communities. Local processors and traders of fish and fish products are generally not competitive in the international market. Most of them realise that the value added product market may be a key to success, but access to the cold and value chains is difficult, because of investments and capacity needed to fulfil the conditions and regulations for quality assurance.

As the international demand for fish and hence the competition for fish and fishing areas increases, lower income groups are likely to become marginalized or replaced by more powerful groups who are able to mobilize the necessary financial and political support to harvest these natural resources. In addition the biased attention for export and the increasing prices for fish, aggravate fishing effort and overfishing, further intensifying economic pressure on the fisheries sector, while sustainable fishing practices become harder to defend and enforce. Ultimately export may cause disruption of local markets and trade routes and may increase the nutritional and economic vulnerability of  the rural population. 

There is an urgent need to enhance the awareness and understanding among politicians and the civil society at large of the real contribution of fisheries to the economy, to sustaining rural livelihoods, to poverty alleviation, trade and markets, to food security and nutrition as well as awareness with respect to impacts and implications for the fisheries sector of export, climate change, pollution and hydro-technological constructions in rivers and watersheds. Food security governance calls for policy debates in various political arenas and for enhanced participation of each layer active in the production and processing of fish as well as the distribution marketing chain to put food policies and strategies into effect.