HLPE consultation on the V0 draft of the Report: The Role of Sustainable Fisheries and Aquaculture for Food Security and Nutrition

18.11.2013 - 20.12.2013

In November 2012, the UN Committee on World Food Security (CFS) requested the High Level Panel of Experts on Food Security and Nutrition (HLPE) to conduct a study on The Role of Sustainable Fisheries and Aquaculture for food security and nutrition. Taking into account the results of the scoping consultation, the HLPE intends to assess the importance and relevance of Fisheries and Aquaculture for Food Security and nutrition as well as the current challenges faced by Fisheries and Aquaculture in relation to Food Security, pointing out changes going on, including overexploitation of fish stocks and the boom of aquaculture, in order to better understand these changes and to maximize the positive effects of them.

Final findings of the study will feed into CFS 41 Plenary session on policy convergence (October 2014).

As part of the process of elaboration of its reports, the HLPE now seeks inputs, suggestions, comments on the present V0 draft.

This e-consultation will be used by the HLPE to further elaborate the report, which will then be submitted to external expert review, before finalization and approval by the HLPE Steering Committee.

HLPE V0 drafts are deliberately presented – with their range of imperfections – early enough in the process, at a work-in-progress stage, when sufficient time remains to give proper consideration feedback received so that it can be really useful and play a real role in the elaboration of the report. It is a key part of the scientific dialogue between the HLPE Project team and Steering Committee with the rest of the knowledge community.

In particular, the HLPE would welcome comments and evidence based suggestions, references, examples, etc. on policy aspects, from an evidence-based perspective, on what can be done to improve the contributions of fisheries and aquaculture to improve food security and nutrition, now and in the future, in various contexts.

It is a fact: fish is nutritionally rich (in particular in bioavailable calcium, iron, zinc, and vitamin A); and fish (either produced through fish-farming activity or caught from wild stocks through fisheries) is used in many developing countries as a primary source of animal protein. The latest estimate by the FAO suggests for instance that in 2009, fish accounted for 17% of the global population’s intake of animal protein and 6.5% of all protein consumed. Globally, fish provides about 3.0 billion people with almost 20 percent of their average per capita intake of animal protein, and 4.3 billion people with about 15 percent of such protein (FAO 2012).

Yet, fisheries and aquaculture are absent from most global reports on food and food insecurity (e.g., FAO SOFA and the FAO food insecurity reports) and, with some few exceptions, fish has so far been ignored in the international debate on food security and nutrition. At the same time, although the fisheries literature recognizes the importance of fish in relation to food security and nutrition, the analysis goes rarely beyond the simple adage stating that: “Fish is a rich food for the poor”.

There is an urgent need to go beyond this adage and establish more rigorously the link between fish ad food security and nutrition. The key-question that this study will aim to address is: “recognizing the well-established importance of fish to food security and nutrition, what should be done to maintain or even enhance this contribution now and in the long term, given the challenges that both fisheries and aquaculture sectors are facing in terms of their own environmental sustainability and governance, and the external economic and demographic transitions that they have to respond to?”

In order to address this overarching question, several more specific interrogations may be considered:

Respective contribution of fisheries and aquaculture to food security and nutrition: How and to what extent do fisheries and aquaculture contribute to food security - through which impact pathways? What is the evidence available to present fisheries and aquaculture as key ways for improving the food security of targeted populations?

Women and food security: What is the specific role of women in enhancing food security in fisheries and aquaculture sectors? What are the threats and barriers to this specific role and why and how should this role be strengthened?

Sectorial trade-offs and food security: Are there any trade-offs between the sectors’ contributions at different levels or between different groups? In other words, is it possible that enhancing food security at one level (or for one specific target group, e.g. urban consumers) reduces food security at another level (or for another specific group, e.g. fishers/producers)? As part of this issue, what is the overall contribution of international fish trade on food security?

Environmental sustainability of fisheries and aquaculture: Beyond an obvious long-term dependence, what is the relationship (trade-offs; synergies) between resource conservation and food security? In particular what are the short- and medium-term impacts of the large number of conservation interventions (e.g. marine protected areas) that have been recently established, on the local populations dependent on small-scale fisheries?

Governance and food security: What are the effects of the various management and governance reforms (e.g. co-management programmes) currently implemented at national level throughout the world’s fisheries, on food security? At the international level what is the role and impact of recent global programmes and campaigns such as the “International Plan of Action to Prevent, Deter and Eliminate Illegal, Unreported and Unregulated Fishing (IPOA-IUU)”, or the implementation of BMPs (Best Management Practices) in aquaculture on food security?

Fisheries and aquaculture interaction: Are there any trade-offs between aquaculture and fisheries in relation food security? In particular is the use of fish meal (to feed farmed fish) a threat to human food security?

The future of fisheries and aquaculture in the context of foods security: What future role fisheries and aquaculture will be able to play in the context of the combined impact of demographic transition (increased population and increased living standard) and climate change (likely decrease in world agriculture production capacity)?

We thank in advance all the contributors for being kind enough to read and comment on this early version of our report. We look forward for a rich and fruitful consultation.

The HLPE Project Team and Steering Committee

Olivier Mikolasek CIRAD & NGO APDRA, France


je prend le forum en route,excusez moi si mes propos sont décalés. Je fais donc quelques premièrs commentaires (un peu précipité) sur le document,

best wishes


Page 20: "Overall at these regional levels, fish consumption is lowest  in Africa (9.1 million tonnes, with 9.1 kg per capita in 2009), while Asia accounts for  broadly two-thirds of total consumption, with 85.4 million tonnes (20.7 kg per capita)."

de fait, les statistiques nationalespeuvetn masquer des  consommations locales en milieu rural très importantes. Sur 98 foyers issus de 6 villages en région Centre (Cameroon), enquêtés 1 semaine/mois en 2007-2008 (soit 8132 données quotidiennes):  les dépenses moyennes pour l’achat de poisson s ’élèvent à 130 000 F CFA /foyer/an ou 19 300 F /pers;  la consommation annuelle en équivalent poisson frais de l’ordre de   35 kg/pers./an.

Grosse O., 2009. Importance of the fish in the food consumption of villagers in the Central and West-Region of Cameroon, APDRA-F, Massy, France, 25 pp., French, http://www.cabi.org/ac/ (consulted in July 2013)

Page 31 : Environmentally sustainable aquaculture production depends on the right combination  of farming systems (including health management), feeds (See section 3.7) and improved germplasm (Browdy et al. 2012)../.. However, in the absence of effective genetic improvement and breeding programs cultured stocks may even beinferior to wild populations due to inbreeding (Acosta and Gupta, 2010)"

"l'amélioration génétique n'est pas toujours une panacée: "For Brummett and Ponzoni (2004), there is a need for genetic improvement programs in face of the genetic degradation of reared Nile tilapia (O. niloticus) in African fish farming systems. In a study carried out in Cameroon, Brummett et al. (2004) compared growth of a wild strain with that of a domestic one in a rural environment and an experiment station (Table 3). They observed a significant decrease in growth (up to 40%) of the reared strains. Therefore, they concluded that smallholders cannot ensure correct genetic management of their fish and proposed entrusting it to large farms in a public-private partnership. Moreover, the improved and synthetic tilapia strain called GIFT would be a neutral technology which can meet the expectations of small and large producers regardless of the feed and manure levels used in the fish farming system (Acosta and Gupta, 2010).

However, without any genetic improvement, large fish of 400 g are obtained in 6 months from 30 g fingerlings (at a density of 0.11 fish/m2) with a daily weight gain of 2 g/day and a water temperature around 26°C during the rearing cycle. An improved strain such as GIFT fed with balanced feed reach this weight in 4 months at a daily weight gain of 3 g/day and a constant temperature of 28°C, but at 22°C and the same duration the final weight would be 60 g (Santos et al., 2013). It is unknown what additional production GIFT will bring to an unfed pond, the utility in selecting a strain in this low-input environment (Charo-Charisa, 2006) and the reaction of this selected strain when facing moderate intensification.

Probably, the value of the expected gain is not able to finance any selection service or even fry distribution at these small scales. Though carp fingerlings are available at the national level, producers give up their supplies, showing how unrealistic this option is. Farmers will see access to selected fish as an additional financial cost, which does not meet their expectations. Moreover, in the current situation, some traders or projects already promote exceptional quality seed that are never verified, an inevitable scam which perhaps participates in the maturing of the fish farming sector.

First, the tilapia population used by smallholders should be described genetically. It would help to set up a management plan to preserve the potential and genetic variability taking while also considering the specific context. It should be noted that the fish farmers described have already implemented a rough genetic management plan; it is based on integral renewal of broodstock combined with exchanges of a few breeders within and between groups of fish farmers and also a small supply from the natural environment.

The position of international institutions (such as FAO, WorldFish) on genetics, since taken by the technical services of Cameroon, has to be questioned by research. Does this apparent vocation of universality of improved tilapia apply to fish farming systems that are primarily based on natural productivity and geographically scattered (Khaw et al., 2013)? Does it not exclude all forms of development based on self-sufficiency of farmers for fish stocking supply? And does it thus exclude the ability of most people in rural and poor environments to sustainably adopt a system that is self-sufficient in fish? Like the paradigm of balanced feed, access to genetically improved strains is not the limiting factor in developing smallholders’ fish farming and increasing fish yields; the supply of nutrients to stimulate the pond food chain appears more efficient (Karim et al., 2011)." (Oswald, Efolé et Mikolasek, in press)

page 43 "In sub-Saharan Africa the very limited information available also underlines the importance of local trade. In the Democratic Republic of the Congo for instance, data collected from the region of Lubumbashi revealed that households consume fish on average 5.17 times  per week (31% consumed fish every day)"

voir au dessus

Page 43 : It could also in the specific case of Africa stimulate the production of aquaculture which  has had difficulties in taking off. The increased demand for fish by the growing urban  (and rural) population could boost investments of, e.g., peri-urban aquaculture  (Brummett et al 2004)

"Commercial farming is successful; however, it requires the use of many imported resources (inputs, expertise). Purely commercial farming supplies the large African city markets, which are most likely to generate profits. Integrated and more extensive fish farming is often considered inefficient because of the perceived waste of subsidies (i.e., spending without subsequent development). For fish farming integrated into small household agriculture, many realities exist in humid West Africa. Many such systems have proven both their efficiency and resilience over the past 20 years (Oswald, 2013; Simon and Benhamou, 2009; El Sayed 2006; Oswald et al., 1997a)" (Oswald, Efole et Mikolasek, in press)

Les modèles industriels ( et le plus souvent les PME ) - le nouveau paradigme de l'aliment extrudé complet- produisent un poisson cher qui est réservé à la clientèle iasée des grandes villes

Page 54 : Although demand for fresh fish is increasing in Africa (in particular in urban areas), smoked, dried and low quality processed fish still represents by far the largest majority of the fish consumed by the rural populations but also by the low income classes in urban areas.

La faible efficience des filières de distribution du poisson congelé importé par exemple fait que le poisson y est distribué en milieu rural à un prix plus élevé que celui en ville (observations faite au Cameroun, en côte dIvoire ...)

Page 59 : ”The relative poor performance of African aquaculture has been caused by a number of  factors, among them the different market conditions in Africa, but also the externally driven focus on smallholder aquaculture. Whilst this has proven successful in building resilience of poor smallholder farmers to external shocks through improving household nutrition, building social capital (through exchange of fish within communities) and  reducing sensibility to periodic drought, it had not led to significant growth in production at national or continental level.

voir plus haut, il peut exister des développement significatifs de modèles de pisciculture qui soient en adéquation avec les ressources en intrants limités des paysans

Rather, current evidence indicate that significant  increases in farmed fish production in Africa are more likely to be achieved through  careful investment in well targeted value chain approaches to the development of the SME [small and medium enterprises] aquaculture sector in place where this can respond  to strong markets (…)” (2010, p. 355)

Les SME, est uen réalité généralisable ou un voeux (en Afrique)

Page 61 : For aquaculture, the conclusions are not so clear. The small-scale, subsistence  aquaculture model has failed to deliver its promises in terms of poverty alleviation and  food security, and the paradigm has now shifted toward slightly larger (i.e. medium- scale), more commercial-oriented enterprises, with the hope that this new emphasis on  medium scale will be more successful at delivering benefits. Time will tell whether this was the right strategy.

j'adère cette idée que le rôle respectif des différenes catégories de pisciculture reste à clarifier. Et les insuccès en Afrique de la pisiculture paysanne ne restent -elles pas liées à l'insuffisance de la prise en compte de la dimension socioéconomique de l'activité en lien avec la valorisation du statu de paysan ou d'agriculteurs familiaux ?

cela pose toutes sortes d'autres quesions sur les modèles qui sont proposés (reconstruits) aux paysans. Et ceci est crai pour l'Afrique mais aussi sur d'autres continent à l'exemple des modèles sociotechniques développés dans certains Etat du Sud Brésilien etc.



Olivier Mikolasek CIRAD & NGO APDRA, France

This study examines intensification of low-input tilapia farming in large dam ponds and identifies innovative practices that farmers can use for this purpose. More broadly, we consider mechanisms for expanding development of smallholder fish farming and corresponding research requirements to increase the efficiency and dissemination of fish farming. The analysis examines several levels at which innovations are produced: fish, pond population, fish rearing system, watershed, farm and territory. We also examine the choice of the level and time horizon analyzed. Based on existing smallholder practices, further research about effective practices that farmers have and could adopt is proposed and discussed. The history of local smallholder fish farming in Cameroon, the development approach carried out by non-governmental organizations and the reference fish polyculture system based on all male tilapia are presented. Regarding the current situation, innovative practices must be considered, particularly smallholder initiatives for water management or floating rice production in fishponds. At each level, relevant practices are emerging to increase fish yields or intensify lowland production while respecting the social and economic dimensions of fish farming. It is important to recognize that the agroecological principles and associated technical solutions are appropriate and that decreased conflict among stakeholders can provide a consistent response. This positioning of research for rural development favors the emergence of innovations and allows for intensification of smallholder fish farming while taking its complexity into account. Low-input fish farming should not be considered as only a subsistence activity of smallholders to alleviate smallholder poverty. On the contrary, rural fish farming can generate sustainable development that is complementary with commercial fish farming.

George Kent University of Hawaii (Emeritus), United States of America


I am commenting here on the zero draft consultation paper, The Role of Sustainable Fisheries and Aquaculture for Food Security and Nutrition, dated 18 November 2013. My focus is on issues relating to trade, particularly those discussed in section 3.6 of the draft, at pages 39-45.

At page 93, the draft’s bibliography refers to a publication of mine from 1997. There is no reason to list it twice. There is also a reference to a manuscript of mine dated 2003. I recommend replacing that with a reference to my paper, “Fish Trade, Food Security, and the Human Right to Adequate Food,” available on the FAO website at http://www.fao.org/docrep/006/y4961e/y4961e06.htm

Section 3.6 refers to my assertion in the 1997 paper that “trade tends to move fish away from poor people.” Is the purpose here to question the validity of that statement? If it is, I would like to refer the writers to these other publications of mine: 

"The Poor Feed the Rich," Development Forum, Vol. X, No. 4 (May 1982), p. 5; republished in Development Education Forum, No. 5 (June 1982), pp. 3-7.

 "Food Trade: The Poor Feed the Rich," Food and Nutrition Bulletin, (United Nations University), Vol. 4, No. 4 (October 1982), pp. 25-33.

"The Pattern of Fish Trade," ICLARM Newsletter, Vol. 6, No. 2 (April 1983), pp. 12-13; republished in Asian-Pacific Environment, Vol. 3, No. 2 (July 1985), p. 2.

"Fisheries and Undernutrition," Ecology of Food and Nutrition, Vol. 16, No. 3 (1985), pp. 281-294.

"Aid, Trade, and Hunger," Food and Nutrition Bulletin, Vol. 7, No. 4 (December 1985), pp. 73-79. http://www.unu.edu/unupress/food/8f074e/8F074E0d.htm

"Fishing in the Solomon Islands: Review of A Japanese Fishing Joint Venture: Worker Experience and National Development in the Solomon Islands," Fisheries Research, Vol. 3, No. 4 (December 1985), pp. 382-383.

"The Industrialization of Fisheries," Peasant Studies, Vol. 13, No. 2 (Winter 1986), pp. 133-143.

"Impacts of Fisheries Policy," Food and Nutrition, Vol. 12, No. 2 (1986), pp. 32-35.

"Fish and Nutrition in India," Food Policy, Vol. 12, No. 2 (May 1987), pp. 161-175.

"Fish and Nutrition in the Pacific Islands," Asia-Pacific Journal of Public Health, Vol. 1, No. 2 (1987), pp. 64-73. http://www2.hawaii.edu/~kent/FishNutinPI.pdf

Fish, Food, and Hunger: The Potential of Fisheries for Alleviating Malnutrition, Boulder, Colorado: Westview Press, 1987 (ISBN 0-8133-7409-X).

"Improved Use of Fisheries Resources: Alleviating Malnutrition in Southern Africa," Food Policy, Vol. 13, No. 4 (November 1988), p. 341-358.

“’Fish for the Poor’: Competing with Chickens,” The Ecologist, Vol. 25, No. 2/3 (March/April, May/June 1995), p. 48. http://exacteditions.theecologist.org/read/ecologist/vol-25-no-2-3-march-april-may-june-1995-5491/11/2/

“Fisheries, Food Security, and the Poor,” Food Policy, Vol. 22, No. 5 (1997), pp. 393-404. http://www2.hawaii.edu/~kent/fisheriesfoodsecurity.pdf

The zero draft speaks of two polarized narratives:

 “On one side, following the general theory on trade, the first narrative claims that international fish trade is good for poverty alleviation and food security. Fish export, it is argued, can act as an engine of growth for developing countries endowed with large fish resources and provide them with important sources of hard cash flow, which can then be used to service international debt, fund the operations of national governments, and import large volumes of (low cost) food to supply the domestic market, thus contributing to national food security.”

“In contrast, the ‘anti-fish trade’ narrative contends that international fish trade impacts negatively food security and livelihood options for the poor by taking away fish from the local economy and the local populations.” 

With regard to the question of whether international trade reduces or accentuates food insecurity, p. 39 of the draft says: “Two recent comprehensive reviews conducted independently converged towards the same findings (Allison et al., 2013; Arthur et al., 2013. Their conclusion is: at best, the evidence is unclear and contradicting, and at worse no strong / rigorous evidence exists to substantiate either of the two narratives.”

Section 3.6 of the zero draft began by saying, “One of the key issues which needs to stay central in this whole discussion is the question of ‘food security for whom?’” In this discussion, a distinction must be made between the fishers and others in low income countries. Clearly, people involved in fishing may have improved food security because of their involvement in the business. This benefit is due to their cash income, not their intake of the fish. However, low-income people who are not involved in the business would not have that benefit. If the fishers sell their products mainly to high income people elsewhere, the food security of the local poor is likely to be worse than it would have been if the producers distributed their products locally. The local poor might get some benefit from factory wastes and by-products, but that is meager compensation for seeing most of the local product being shipped away. The global pattern of fish trade clearly is oriented to supplying fish to people with money more than to people with needs. The analysis on pp. 40-41 of the zero draft supports this view.

The pattern of fish in trade flowing from the poor to the rich is strong and clear. Trade improves the food supply of fish for the rich far more than it improves the supply for the poor. Any analysis of fisheries and food security should be attentive to this pattern.

To review what I said in my 2003 paper, the  abstract reads:

 “In global fish trade, large volumes of fish are exported from poorer countries to richer countries. This trade can affect food security in different ways for different parties, depending on the particular local circumstances. In assessing the impacts of fisheries trade on food security, it is important to distinguish among the impacts on fish workers and their communities, on the general population, and on the poor, who are the most vulnerable to malnutrition. The benefits of fisheries trade are likely to be enjoyed primarily by those whose are already well off. The poor may benefit, but they may also be hurt. At times the harm may be quite direct, as when fish on which they had depended for their diet is diverted to overseas markets. At times the impacts may be indirect, as when export oriented fisheries deplete or otherwise harm fisheries that had traditionally been used to provide for local consumption. Export-oriented fisheries may divert resources such as labor and capital away from production for local consumption. Fish workers may benefit from new export oriented fisheries if they participate in them, but in some cases these workers are simply displaced from their traditional livelihoods. The human right to adequate food is now well articulated in international human rights law. Under this law, national governments and other agencies are required to respect, protect, facilitate, and fulfill the right to adequate food. This means that public agencies that oversee the management of fisheries, including fish trade, are obligated to assure that these activities contribute to the achievement of food security, especially for those who are most vulnerable to malnutrition. To this end, it would be useful for the international community to provide guidance on how this can be done. The Code of Conduct for Responsible Fisheries could be elaborated to provide this guidance, giving particular attention to the impacts of fish trade on food security.

The final document on The Role of Sustainable Fisheries and Aquaculture for Food Security and Nutrition should take these considerations into account.

Aloha, George Kent

Dr Krishna Kaphle Institute of Agriculture and Animal Science, Tribhuvan University, Nepal

The growing population of the planet that is bound to rise for another fifty years is a severe global concern. Though, negative population growth in some countries may be positive news but now with relaxed birth control policy in China, uncontrolled growth in many developing and underdeveloped nations, rise in ethnic politics is bound to delay balance of global population. The challenge to feed growing mouths by ensuring that the delicate eco-system is not exploited beyond repair is no easy task.

Ending hunger and poverty requires major national policy initiatives in developing countries, focused investment and change in feeding habbits. The UN has articulated a broad zero hunger vision, endorsed and embraced as a priority by nations. Production of food by small cultivators in developing countries has a critical role to play in ending world hunger and it applies to aqua farmers.

Food habbit change, targeted culinary tourism in coastal/fish producing areas.

Sustainable harvesting from nature and production.

Managing production shun chemicals.

Price protection to producers and consumers.

R and D incorporation at all aspects from pond to fork. 

Dinesh Kaippilly Kerala University of Fisheries and Ocean Studies (KUFOS), India

India is second in inland aquaculre production after China, the mainstay being the carp production. But in resource utilization, the country lags behind. In the brackishwater side, the % of potential land utilization still remains less than 15. Cage aquaculture sector still reamains in infancy owing to lack of rules and regulations and inflow of funds. In the freshwater side, some of the endemic species (eg. belonging to Western Ghats) are yet to be studied and used for commercial aquaculture. The number of species commercially cultured in India remains less than 20 and this can be easily augmented to 100 for augmenting the aquaculture production of the country. This will also lead to diversification-possibilites. Again, the aquaculture production of Vietnam is almost equl to India's production. But the export value of the the former is 6.5 billion US$ while that of India is 3.5 billion US$. If the country can make a few strategic shifts in the "aquacultural attitude" she can move forward must faster. Then, the aquaculture sector will be able to contribute to the protein security and food basket of the country with much more impact and significance.

(please double check the values as I am forwarding this in a hurry).

Dr. K. Dinesh

Assistant Professor & Head, Fisheries Station, Puduveypu, Cochin- 682508

Kerala University of Fisheries and Ocean Studies (KUFOS) 

Selina Juul Stop Wasting Food movement Denmark (Stop Spild Af Mad), Denmark

Regadring the Bycatch discarded at sea:

Address the solutions:

Lobbying campaigns targeting the retailers to sell fish of every size and type.

Campaigns targeting and educating the consumers to buy fish of every size and type.

New green growth opportunities targeting the canteens, foodservice and hospitals and others b2b to by fish of every size and type from the fishermen.

Since 2015 will most probably be the European Year Against Food Waste, it's is important that the EU must look at it's own laws and legistrations that will allow to introduce a Fish Discard Ban.

Sincerely yours,
Selina Juul
Stop Wasting Food movement Denmark (Stop Spild Af Mad) 
Winner of Nordic Council Nature and Environment Prize 2013
Winner of Svend Auken Prize
Recipient of Cross of Merit Pro Utilitate Hominum of Sovereign Order of Saint John of Jerusalem, Knights Hospitaller
Winner of Junior Chamber International Denmark's The Outstanding Young Person Award 
Sincerely yours,
Selina Juul
Winner of Nordic Council Nature and Environment Prize 2013
Winner of Svend Auken Prize
Recipient of Cross of Merit Pro Utilitate Hominum of Sovereign Order of Saint John of Jerusalem, Knights Hospitaller
Winner of Junior Chamber International Denmark's The Outstanding Young Person Award 


Erick Baqueiro Cardenas Private consultant, Mexico

Making production catch up with human population, requires five E the solution is not on straining the system more, rather reduce human population. We are a pest.

On the other hand, as fishery's biologist, it is evident that every fishery managed under the minimum size philosophy has failed, as the policy reduces the reproductive potential of the species, and promotes the development of dwarfs and slow growers.

A change to maximum catch limit should be overtaken to promote the recovery of the reproductive potential and the predominance of gigantism and fast growers.