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

11.03.2013 - 12.04.2013

Duly recognising the significant role played by fisheries and aquaculture in food security and nutrition, the Committee on World Food Security (CFS) in its thirty-ninth Session (October 2012) requested the High Level Panel of Experts (HLPE), to undertake a study on the Role of sustainable fisheries and aquaculture for food security and nutrition to be presented to the Plenary in 2014. “In this study, CFS requires the HLPE to consider the environmental, social and economic aspects of fisheries including artisanal fisheries, as well as a review of aquaculture development. The report of this study has to be policy oriented, practical and operational”.


As part of its report elaboration process, the HLPE is now launching an e-consultation to seek views, public feedback and comments, on the proposed orientation of the study and on key aspects that the report proposes to address, in line with the request from the CFS, and which could form the building blocks of the report. The feedback received will be used by the HLPE Steering Committee to finalize the terms of reference of the Study and HLPE Project Team that will be appointed to prepare the study and policy recommendations.

To download the proposed scope, please click here.
If you wish to contribute, send an email or use the form below.

The consultation is open until 12th April 2013.


In parallel, the HLPE is calling for experts interested in participating in the Project Team for this report. Information on this call is available on the HLPE website. The HLPE Steering Committee will appoint the Project Team after review of candidatures.

The HLPE Steering Committee

Department of Fisheries and Aquaculture FAO, Italy

The FAO Department of Fisheries and Aquaculture (FI) welcomes the decision of the Committee on world food security (CFS) to request the High Level Panel of Experts (HLPE) to undertake a study on the role of sustainable fisheries and aquaculture for food security and nutrition to be presented at the CFS plenary in 2014. Although asserted at high levels meetings, e.g. the United Nations Conference on Sustainable Development (Rio +20), the important contribution of fisheries and aquaculture to food security and nutrition has not always received the attention it deserves, and most strategies aiming at improving food security neglect the fisheries and aquaculture or make only passing reference to it. FI would like the HLPE to fill this gap by (i) mapping the real contribution fisheries and aquaculture makes or can make to food security and nutrition and (ii) recommend policies to ensure that food security strategies incorporate the fisheries and aquaculture sector.

In so doing, the HLPE study should look at fisheries and aquaculture sector not only as a provider of high quality proteins, but also as an equally important, unique source of micronutrients such as long chained omega-3 fatty acids necessary for brain and neurodevelopment in children, The latter underlines the importance of fish in the diets for women of childbearing age, infants and young children. Of importance is also the presence in fish of minerals/trace elements and vitamins essential for combating various disorders due to iodine, zinc and/or vitamin A deficiencies which still affect millions of people, particularly in the developing world. Looking towards the goal of eradicating hunger and under-nutrition, the HLPE should focus specifically on the role of small scale fisheries and the importance of fish such as small pelagics, small self-recruiting fishes, or aquatic animals in rice based farming systems that are low value but highly nutritious.

In addition to assessing the real contribution of fisheries and aquaculture to food security, FI would like the HLPE study to assess the necessary resources and collaboration frameworks at global, regional and national levels that can make this contribution to global food security effective, building on past and ongoing initiatives. As stated in the scope of this e-consultation, the world leaders at the 2012 UN Conference on Sustainable Development (Rio + 20) stated in article 13 of the document agreed by the Conference “we also stress the crucial role of healthy aquatic eco-systems, sustainable fisheries and sustainable aquaculture for food security and nutrition, and in providing the livelihoods of millions of people”. Policy recommendations to governments, the donor community, private sector and civil society would be useful in this respect.

Specific Comments on the issues raised by the HLPE

Regarding the key questions that the report poses, in line with the request from CFS, and that could form the building blocks of the report, FI has the following comments [see attachment].

Hauke Kite-Powell Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution, United States of America

Population growth and climate change are going to stress the global food production system in the course of the 21st century.  Constraints on fresh water supply and arable land, concern over carbon emissions associated with protein production, and human health considerations are likely to favor increased protein production from the oceans.  Better management of wild fish stocks is mainly a question of political will and economics; but even if we get that right, wild stocks will not provide the additional seafood supply that will be needed as world population approaches 9 billion.  That can only come from aquaculture. Developed and developing countries alike will have to consider how they will ensure seafood supply in light of these factors.

In developed countries, such as the United States, increasing marine aquaculture production is mainly a question of resolving use conflicts in the coastal zone and technology/economics further offshore.  Developing countries face important choices in the aquaculture development path they pursue, as large-scale aquaculture operations build with foreign investment and focused on export markets have very different consequences for domestic economic development and protein supply than small-scale projects focused on native species and domestic markets.

The global potential for increased protein production from marine aquaculture in particular is immense.  Appropriate forms of marine aquaculture can generate healthy forms of protein (and income) with lower carbon and ecological footprint than many land-based alternatives.  It will be important to provide objective and science-based guidance to governments of developing countries seeking to increase seafood protein supply in ways that conserve and sustain marine environmental resources and ecosystems.

Vladimir Puentes Javier Plata National Authority for Aquacture and Fisheries, Colombia

1.       How can the implementation of the FAO “Code of Conduct “for Responsible Fisheries and Aquaculture” be further improved globally for sustainable aquatic resource management?

 The third principle set out by the “Code of Conduct “for Responsible Fisheries and Aquaculture” is referred to serving as an instrument of reference to help States to establish or to improve the legal and institutional framework required for the exercise of responsible fisheries and in the formation and implementation of appropriate measure. In addition, the seventh is concerning the encouragement of protection of living aquatic resources, and their environments and coastal areas.

 Then, these two principles lead us to the fact that at-sea and fresh waters fishery observer programmes will be able to become one of the key ways to further improve sustainable aquatic resource management, or at least a strategic tool for getting more realistic results regarding sustainable aquatic resource management.

Consequently, the “Role of sustainable fisheries and aquaculture for food security and nutrition” may include the link between the implementation of observer programmes for any kind of fisheries, based on the “Guidelines for Developing an At-Sea Fishery Observer Programme”, and the “Code of Conduct “for Responsible Fisheries and Aquaculture”. In addition, a kind of “Guidelines for Developing a Fresh Water Fishery Observer Programme” might be needed, if there has not been proposed yet. Shortly for this part, these two documents has to be born in mind as a part of a national strategy for sustainable fisheries.

On the other hand, and unlike what has been stated on previous considerations by the Australian Government, it is noted that the wider the scope of the first draft is the more integrated the final document will be. In other words, what is understood as a purpose of this 10-issue questionnaire is to cover, as much it is possible, including parts of other international compulsory and voluntary agreements, to get the broadest picture of what can be included in the role of sustainable fisheries and aquaculture for food security and nutrition. Then, having this very comprehensive drawing, the discussion of a new approach, or thinking can be started.

Finally, and as a national experience from a developing country, the “Code of Conduct “for Responsible Fisheries and Aquaculture” and its implementation along local coastal fishery communities have been of great support for creating a more aware perspective of harvesting aquatic resources, ensuring somehow a more effective use management. As a result, some unsustainable and polluting routines carried out mainly by small-scale fishermen, has begun to change. However, an accompanying mechanism, as the “Role of sustainable fisheries and aquaculture for food security and nutrition” is intended to have, it will be very useful for covering some gaps concerning the “Fisheries Code” itself.

2.       How will nations maintain the integrity of the resource base (the source of food) in the face of these pressures, and the livelihoods dependent on them?

Information on fisheries and aquaculture resources in Colombia is fragmented, and complementary data regarding the conditions of poor people and the different aquatic resources for livelihoods in some remote areas of the country, has not been totally taken into account. Therefore, decisions are sometimes unsuitably taken on domestic level priorities only overseeing the necessities of local communities, mostly the poorest, and thus having a severe danger to native livelihood advantages containing fisheries. In addition for developing countries, the growth matters in main river basins are similar, as it is for the country, where fisheries are an essential source of food and revenue for poor communities, and many of them are indigenous.

Summarising, it is quite clear that the significance of fishery statistics as a tool that affords the foundations are crucial for the building of national fisheries policies and national management frameworks and actions as well as basis for understanding the status and condition of the fisheries resources. As a result, it can be concluded that getting coherent and consistent fishery statistics may be the starting point for developing nations to maintain the integrity of the resource base and a part of a strategy to reduce pressures from the livelihoods dependent on them and communities themselves.

 3. What are the key socioeconomic issues, which affect the sustainability and development of fisheries and aquaculture?

 As it has been highlighted by the international community, attention has to be drawn to the potential roles of inland water fisheries and aquaculture as food suppliers. This bears in mind the overall socio-economic situation of rural development. For that reason, re-appraisal of national policies for fisheries and aquaculture development and management has to be considered.

Consequently, it can be a clear aim for the “Role of sustainable fisheries and aquaculture for food security and nutrition” in taking a lead and giving a reasonable guidance  on how to approach the socioeconomic matters affecting the sustainability of fisheries and aquaculture such as overpopulation, poverty, minimum living conditions, sanitation, education, corruption, and so on.

 4.  To what extend can contributions be made to policy development and have considerable impact on securing small-scale fisheries/artisanal fisheries in their fundamental rights and creating benefits, especially in terms of food security and poverty reduction?

Concerning the linkage between the “International Guidelines for Securing Sustainable Small-scale Fisheries” and the “Role of Sustainable Fisheries for Food Security and Nutrition”, with regard of the extend to what contributions can be made in terms of policy development, basically for developing countries in Latin America, is essentially given by Part 2 of the SSF-Guidelines. At this part, it is mentioned that the need for SSF communities of having protected rights to fishery resources and land, and the capability of benefit from them in order to sustain their livelihoods have to be addressed as a priority.

Accordingly, States should work closely and steadily with SSF communities, through long-term projects, in developing policy comprising research, analysis, consultation, and synthesis of information in order to produce suitable recommendations that can finally harmonise the current reality of these communities, sometimes geographically  difficult to be accessed, to what is expected according the Development National Plans.     

At the regional level, we can mention that the South Pacific Permanent Commission (CPPS) has recently carried out a Regional Workshop in Colombia in order to adopt Shared views regarding the “Zero Draft on the International Guidelines for Securing Sustainable Small-scale Fisheries”. The workshop gathered expert representatives from some countries in the region who agreed on certain recommendations for this draft document, including the involvement of SSF communities and relevant stakeholders in the decision-making process.

5. How can the gender specific needs and rights of women be protected through enforceable rights over land, water resources, credit and other related matters?

In developing, women who are offered and provided with the best circumstances to enhance their socio-economic empowerment will also be able to contribute meaningfully to food security, poverty alleviation and improved well-being for themselves, their families and their communities. In brief, they will assistance to make a world in which responsible and sustainable use of fisheries and aquaculture resources can make an considerable contribution to human well-being, food security and poverty alleviation. Then, this is an issue to be developed in full during the discussion of the document on the “Role of sustainable fisheries and aquaculture for food security and nutrition”. In Colombia, there are some fisheries directed linked to women and children in the SSF, and there are some successful initiatives.

6.  What continuous improvements in institutional capacities (both national and regional) are critical for the success of management and governance of sustainable fisheries and aquaculture?

The management and governance of sustainable fisheries, including decision-making, and related institutional capacities, are undoubtedly the weakest part in an integrated approachable cake attempting to identify possible short, mid, and long-term solutions for developing countries.

Additionally, it is considered not enough just to carry out some training courses to growing institutional capacity at the national and regional level, and much more has to be done. For instance, more e-consultation processes such as the “Role of sustainable fisheries and aquaculture for food security and nutrition”. This worldwide participation will allow more people to get involved in having a wider perspective, and then with the proper financial resources it will be possible to start implementing appropriate projects, mainly in developing countries, with a solid socioeconomic component for the many isolated fisheries communities.

In cases like Colombia, which has a huge territory, co-management is a good alternative to make fishermen responsible for their own ones. However, this involves rights on the territory and  a certain level of association of artisanal fishermen; this is often difficult to find, if you cannot find an intermediate stakeholder that works with them.  

7.  How sustainable aquaculture can be promoted for food security and nutrition, as well as livelihoods, into the longer term?

In this concern, it can be said, that sustainable aquaculture can be promoted for food security and nutrition by strengthening the knowledge base surrounding efficient planning, coordination and implementation of research and development programmes supporting the sustainable expansion of aquaculture, and increasing its impact on food security, livelihoods and poverty alleviation in developing countries. Small scale aquaculture needs a good trade chain, if you want not only get something to eat, but also something to sell and get some profit for the family.

8. What policies are necessary for fair and improved trading?

At this stage, it can be proposed for the “Role of sustainable fisheries and aquaculture for food security and nutrition” to harmonise  the FAO Technical Guidelines for Responsible international Fish Trade” and the “Laws and regulations relating to fish trade”, along with the Code of Conduct for Responsible Fisheries. This is because trade in fish and fish products is very important for developing countries. Fifty percent of international trade in fish and fish products originates from developing countries. This is an important source of revenue, employment and foreign exchange for these countries.

9.  What would promote fish value chain development that supports food security and nutrition?

The answer to this question can be also provided along with the International Guidelines for Securing Sustainable Small-scale Fisheries”. The value-chain analysis on international fish trade and food security with an impact assessment of the small-scale sector is deeply required for drawing some conclusions in the current document proposed.

10.   What other policies and relevant technology options are available for waste minimisation, better resource accountability and management?

As in many fisheries, bycatch remains a major source of domestic unregulated and unreported fishing and can be classified as IUU fishing and it threatens the security of those who depend on fisheries as a source of food and income. To safeguard these often-precarious livelihoods, responsible fishery management plans promoting good practices and control measures on bycatch and discards are needed.

Therefore, policies and relevant technology options for waste minimisation have to be focused on concerted national and international action to provide the global framework needed to assess, monitor and mitigate bycatch problems in most of the fisheries. FAO has various instruments available for developing and promoting sustainable fisheries including the preparation of technical guidelines.

As a conclusion, this is an issue to be integrated, as well, with the international action on bycatch management and discard reduction that should be applied by all States, entities and fishers. It should also address bycatch management objectives, bycatch reduction technologies, legislation, training, institutional capacity building and outreach to industry. Mechanisms should be put in place at the state level for baseline studies, regular monitoring and assessment of progress towards management of all retained catch species, reduction of discards.


Kikuko Sakai France

The Role of Sustainable Fisheries and Aquaculture for Food Security and Nutrition

The ocean and the aquatic environment cover more than two-thirds of the surface of our planet and provide us the source of nourishment.  It is clear that sustainable fisheries and aquaculture will play an important role in hunger alleviation, nutritional improvement and socio-economic activities.  Especially, small scale fisheries and aquaculture activities in combination with agriculture and forestry are expected to contribute to self-sustenance in alimentation, livelihood improvement and rural development.  Therefore, this comment is focused on three pillars of challenge in small scale fisheries and aquaculture, such as aquatic resource management, post-harvest activities and humanity, from the aspect of the implementation of the FAO Code of Conduct for Responsible Fisheries and Aquaculture (Code of Conduct), by posing a question; how can the artisanal fisheries and aquaculture be promoted in sustainable manners for food security and nutrition.

From the aspect of aquatic resource management, it is fundamental to implement the Code of Conduct transparently, comprehensively and suitable for local people under the consensus among stakeholders.  First of all, it is important to know and understand the actual situation in artisanal fisheries and aquaculture by researches and analyses based on statistics, scientific data, socio-economic studies and field surveys including IUU issues and ecosystem based management.  For example, some illegal fishing activities, such as using dynamites or poisons, exist in artisanal fishery, and they often cause physical injuries and negative impacts on environment.  Artisanal distribution chains of fishery products are also complicated as there are sometimes hidden in traditional rules and customs among stakeholders, and it may cause quantitative difference between the data and the facts in catch, landing and distribution.  Secondly, results from those studies and researches needs to be transferred to the stakeholders in order to raise their awareness of the situation as well as their comprehension for the implementation of the Code of Conduct.  FAO’s knowledge products, such as communication for development, will help to encourage actors of small scale fisheries and aquaculture to participate in the decision making process for their responsible conducts as they have to play an incentive role for sustainable resource utilization and management.  Moreover it is essential to coordinate conflicts in multi-level and cross-sectorial stakeholders in order to find political, scientific, environmental and socio-economic resolution.  The sustainable aquatic resource management is a crucial issue, however, the right to access to the resource for the weak, such as artisanal stakeholders, should be protected.  Small scale aquaculture production will improve the animal protein intake for rural populations, in parallel, legal frameworks corresponding to the ecosystem approach including water and land usage, hygienic control, biodiversity and prevention of fish diseases should be considered.  As majority of the rural population is engaged in plural artisanal businesses, integrated development approaches and capacity building will be practical for fishery resource management and environmental protection in order to realize food security and safety, improve nutrition and livelihood and maintain healthy ocean and aquatic environment.

Improvement of post-harvest activities will promote sustainable fisheries and aquaculture effectively and efficiently.  Fish is not only one of the good sources of animal protein, but also provides us important other micro-nutrients such as polyunsaturated fatty acids, known as omega-3 or DHA and EPA, which provide neurodevelopmental benefits and prevent from cardiovascular diseases.  Those substances are contained highly in small and middle size pelagic fish, such as sardine, mackerel etc., which is accessible to the low income population in coastal regions.  However fish is relatively perishable than other livestock and poultry products, therefore, quantitative management of production as well as quality control in whole chains of distribution are required to minimize post-harvest losses.  From the aspect of qualitative change, the polyunsaturated fatty acids are oxidized easily and then produce peroxides, unpleasant odors and colors.  Histamine poisoning occurs mainly in the small pelagic fish because of inadequate handling especially in temperature control.  Moreover, overproduction and by-catch often cause dumping, thus, quantitative and qualitative management is highly required by applying adequate information tools, such as “i-Marine”.  Fish processing and product development will help to improve preservability, add value to fishery products, promote to utilize less commercial species and disperse the fishing pressure on some commercial species.  As the result, it will reduce post-harvest losses, increase the level of nutrition and sustain the revenue of fishers.  Prioritizing self-sustenance and local consumption for food security and nutrition, improvement of market access and creation of value chains are also expected to promote consumption of various types of fish and its products.  Throughout those activities, the implementation of Code of Conduct is encouraged with the application of eco-friendly fishing, qualitative and quantitative management and zero-emission of waste.

  Combining with the resource management and improvement of post-harvest activities, it is fundamental to consider the population which is engaged in fisheries and aquaculture sector.  In the case of Japan, fishery was once considered as a job to make a fortune at one stroke, however, the population in the sector is decreased year by year and then its communities become an aging society.  There is also a kind of notion that fishing is hard, risky and unstable work under unclean and smelly working environment.  Under the situation, it is difficult to obtain successors in this sector as young people tend to move to cities for their employment opportunities in service sectors than to stay in the villages for fishery related industry.  As the result, a majority of Japanese vocational schools and universities related to fisheries and aquaculture has been renamed in order to maintain and increase the number of students.   Therefore the negative image in fisheries and aquaculture should be changed into the positive one through development strategies, governance, scientific and technological innovation and investigation.  Small scale fishery has been a kind of inherited business which requires experience and traditional know-how related to local customs.  Adding to vulnerability caused by climate change, environmental degradation and natural disasters, intuition as well as luck may also influence livelihood and revenue of fishers.  To stabilize small scale fisheries and aquaculture, technical assistance should be implemented in multi-dimension including risk management, hygiene and sanitary control, market access and value chains system…  Creative concepts for sustainable development in this field, such as “smart fisheries community”, are required to increase aid and investment, to introduce social security and insurance and to promote employment.  With social concern, environmental campaigns for aquatic ecosystem protection are welcomed, however, humanity in small scale fisheries and aquaculture is little noticed.  Fisheries and aquaculture cannot exist without humans and their activities.  Education, vocational training and enlightenment are necessary to raise motivation of young people who will be potential successors in this field with the respect of the Code of Conduct and relative environment policies.

Considering above mentioned issues, I believe that FAO shows dynamic leadership and integrated approaches for sustainable fisheries and aquaculture as well as food security and nutrition through its expertise and knowledge based management.  FAO’s decentralized strategy will convert the knowledge based products into practices in order to promote small scale fisheries and aquaculture harmonizing with agro-forestry.  I also attach importance to UN-based programs for healthy ocean and human activities and put confidence in the FAO role in technical guidance, stakeholders’ consensus building and coordination of multidisciplinary teams together with governments, academic and scientific institutions, related organizations, NGOs and private sectors.

Anna Child FAO, FIPM, United States of America

9. What would promote fish value chain development that supports food security and nutrition?

Improving access to more effective processing capabilities in value chains is key to better supporting food security and nutrition. Specifically for medium and low value species for the domestic market, traditional processing methods of smoking and drying still dominate and as we know, are subject to poor hygienic conditions and high post-harvest losses. Processing infrastructure such as solar driers, raised racks, and chorkor smokers could provide low-cost and efficient processing methods that would be realistic for use in developing country settings. Coupled with proper training, use of these processing methods could not only result in reduced post-harvest losses, but also improve income. A 2004 FAO project in Burundi supplied and trained processors to build and use raised racks for drying fish instead of drying on the ground. Not only were post-harvest losses reduced significantly, but the price of the dried fish doubled. This nutritious product now has a longer shelf life, allowing it to be transported to inland markets where protein deficiencies are especially notable. In terms of processing for international markets, most fish suppliers in developing countries are earning limited profit from their valuable natural resources as they are generally supplying raw material. Therefore, more of an emphasis needs to be placed on producing value-added fish products domestically (for domestic fish or low-cost imported fish), which will create a more profitable product as well as an entirely new service sector in terms of employment and skills development, strengthening the economic base of the country.

Value chain development must focus on promotion and marketing of fish products. This is the case both domestically (especially in countries that currently have low domestic consumption rates) and internationally. A FAO analysis conducted from 2009 to 2012 on small-scale fishery and aquaculture value chains in fourteen countries found that in many developing countries, domestic marketing and sales could help develop alternative income streams for producers while also helping countries achieve improved food security and nutrition. More so, the analysis found that though international market prices for export products were usually higher than domestic market prices, the difference was often substantially less significant than the authors presupposed. In Honduras for instance, the analysis found that when taking into account savings from transportation costs, wholesale shrimp prices were 20 percent higher than export prices. The lack of marketing in Honduras was identified as one of the major reasons their domestic market has been unable to expand and helps to explain why a majority of their species is currently exported. Some marketing and promotion techniques should be employed by fishers and fish farmers themselves, such as labelling strategies to denote quality and origin, yet other larger campaigns to increase local consumption is needed by governments. Careful research on successful marketing strategies must be conducted, especially on its costs, benefits and overall trade offs. This is especially true where developing countries aim to access international markets through certification or using other marketing schemes. If costs of the schemes are unknown, it is difficult to realistically quantify the economic benefits of accessing these markets.

Systemic issues in value chain development will be the most difficult to overcome, but are some of the most important challenges to address in improving food and nutrition security. On a macro environmental and policy level, intra-regional trade needs to be strategically formalized and developed in conjunction with relevant initiatives such as the Trade Facilitation and Aid for Trade put forth by the WTO. Currently, informal fish trade dominates in many parts of the developing world and is grossly underdeveloped, especially in Africa. Barriers to intra-regional fish trade that are directly connected to value chain development must be addressed, such as the inadequate infrastructure for large trade volumes as well as the lack of trade regulations and monitoring. To help minimize negative impacts on livelihoods and reducing the supply of fish through formalization, measures should consider including components to speed up transaction procedures, reduce hassle and trade costs at the borders, and provide educational outreach about new rules and regulations. The implementation of a Regional Fish Trade Strategy for the East-Southern Africa and Indian Ocean Region (SMARTFISH Programme) is building regional trade and marketing in the East-Southern Africa region with national and regional consensus to support strategy development. Successes and challenges documented through this project could provide helpful lessons learned when working to formalize regional trade elsewhere.

8. What policies are necessary for fair and improved trading?

Policies are needed to help make prices more transparent and accessible to all value-chain agents, particularly fishers and fish farmers themselves. With the worldwide spread of cellular mobile technology, it would be appropriate to do this through programs collecting and sharing price data on these devises. Price information can be used as leverage for agents in their price negotiations, leading to a better functioning market with reduced price fluctuations. One example of a method for disseminating information on prices is through the radio, as there has been success documented with a FAO/Common Funds for Commodity project Mozambique, where the local radio station broadcast fish prices every Friday.

Additionally, policies to help adopt more standardized pricing methods locally or even regionally could help producers obtain a more equitable price for their products, help establish more consistency in profits over time and better distribute the negotiation power along the value-chain. In many developing countries, fish price is dependent on a wide range of variables somewhat out of the control of fishers, such as fish size and bargaining power. This is especially problematic as the most vulnerable populations have the least control over these variables and are left feeling disempowered by their livelihoods. Pricing methods could be by weight, bags, hands, or whatever measurement was most accessible to local stakeholders. Trainings in consistent pricing methods and supplies such as weight-scales or other measurement devices could help provide an initial first step. 


7. How sustainable aquaculture can be promoted for food security and nutrition, as well as livelihoods, into the longer term?

For aquaculture to continue to promote food security/nutrition and livelihoods in a sustainable way, specific policies and a financial environment conducive for establishing new small-scale fish farms and adopting appropriate and sustainable farming methods are needed. Low-interest loans, access to credit and/or micro-grants to foster investment and start-up farms are crucial to ensuring that there are opportunities for small-scale farmers to be involved in the aquaculture sector. Furthermore, exploring beneficial arrangements such as “clusters” could help small-scale farmers work together to share infrastructure and knowledge as well as obtain certification (such as GLOBALG.A.P). For aquaculture’s long-term sustainability, it is vital that aquaculture not only supports a highly consolidated industry, but also maintains room for small-scale, diversified fish farms. Of course, careful research is needed when deciding to establish new fish farms. Clearly, land and water availability must be ensured and diligent thought must be given to analyse how the proposed increased competition will impact existing aquaculture farms. In addition, training and financing is needed to help fish farmers adopt appropriate aquaculture technologies. For instance, a case study analysis of the small-scale aquaculture farms in Cambodia in 2011 by FAO found that fish farmers need to move towards using the most efficient pellet feed for fish food instead of low-value fish “trash” fish.  Adopting these practices would reduce fish mortality rates, improve the quality of fish and avoid the depletion of low-value fish, which are highly nutritious and should be promoted for direct human consumption use instead. 




Arne Sørvig University of Stavanger / BI Norwegian Business School, Norway

Aquaculture has been a successful system for increasing world seafood supply, is expected to outgrow capture fisheries in volumes, and follow the increasing demand from an ever growing population (with continuous increased proportion of middle class residing in urban areas). It is also a very energy-efficient way to produce animal protein, and when operations are within the boundaries of environmental sustainability, aquaculture is bound to be embraced by food security developers concerned with sustainable development. This calls for a bright future, with continuous high growth rates similar to what we have seen the last decades. In order to keep pace with demand-growth growth rates must remain high.

In recent presentations* the economist and professor Ragnar Tveteraas have presented FAO-data and other more recent data that questions the assumption of “strong future growth of aquaculture”, documenting what may seem like a general slowdown, even stagnation for important aquaculture industries. Output is growing from the global aquaculture production system, but at a lower pace. Furthermore, he shows how many individual aquaculture sectors tend to reach a production plateau after some time followed by stagnation and even dramatic decline. If this is possibly bad news within the overall demand panorama, and should challenge our problem definition and knowledge search.

In particular there are key two areas or factors, which distinguishes aquaculture from other industries, that are challenging 1) negative externalities related to disease and fish health (decreasing the return to scale), and 2) market-failure of aquaculture-sector R&D in terms the ability to appropriate value from private-sector R&D-investments. There is an important role for politics in aquaculture, a role of governance that seem weakly understood in practice – even in Europe.

After many years of booming and busting (fall, even death) among different industries within the global aquaculture sector there should be opportunities to synthesize experiences to better understand the role of key issues like innovation, ‘governance’ (not only upstream, but along the entire value chain and in the broadest sense), technology development and R&D. There must be some ways of implementing aquaculture (and other related 'unborn' activities like marine agriculture) that are more efficient and robust over time than others. Understanding development and governance regimes would facilitate growth of smaller scale operations into larger scale industries with the sought-for ability to supply the ever-increasing demand. The inclusion of governance-issues along the value chain, and understanding these issues in broader sense therefore seem integral to most of the issues presented in the HLPE scoping document.

If indeed there is a tendency of stagnation, research questions should start with a Why (rather than a How). The answers might even call for a research program on it’s own.

* Latest in January 2013 at the Aquaculture Symposium arranged in Oslo, Norway, by The Norwegian Academy of Science and Letters, The Norwegian Academy of Technological Sciences and The Research Council of Norway

Tipparat Pongthanapanich Thailand

Food security can be obtained when the food producers are secured. Here the interaction of work & life cycles of small scale farmers is highlighted. Work cycle comprises farm management activities and components from input to output management processes including physical and market risk management. Life cycle entails farmers’ livelihood activities, i.e. household consumption, income, expenses, saving, health, education, social, cultural and leisure activities. For example, we often see that the farmer spends almost all of the farm revenue to pay the debt and borrows again for the next crop; if crop fails, it will increase her indebtness which inevitably affects the household’s livelihood and welfare in all aspects. These two circles thus interact and affect each other. Based on this premise, how do we develop programs that will promote food security in a more integrated and holistic way regarding their diversified context and conditions? Many points in the proposed scope should be taken into consideration at the same time in one work package.

Small farms can survive and improve by means of sharing of knowledge and resources among the group members and by networking. Farmer groups should generate an alternative supply chain, in contrast to the conventional one, to create a fair trade aiming at a fairer farm price and a reasonable retail price subject to satisfactory product quality. An efficient value chain should allow farmers to predetermine the output price and even get pre-orders of their product. This enables them to better plan for quantity to be produced. This is not contract farming, but it is based on a relationship of trust and confidence among well selected strategic partners and alliances in the network who are willing the share the cost of risk and share responsibility and benefit along the chain. A case likes this exists in Thailand in the Moral Rice Farmer Group who basically produce certified organic rice; the group members observe precepts (e.g. do not gamble, drink and smoke) which in fact help farmers cut unnecessary expenses. The cost of farm inputs is minimized by sharing of inputs, a good logistic work within the network, and a more diversified farm activity. Consumers and retailers (e.g. “Consumer alliance introduced to the group by media”, pharmacies, “Farmer Shop” a pilot project conducted by the Cooperative Academic Institute, Kasetsart University, as part of the network alliances in the chain are willing to pay a premium price for encouraging farmers to produce a high quality product and to build up a network of ethical – safe, clean and green products and moral group. In this case, they do not incur over supply and do not need subsidies (for example they do not participate in the government’s rice pledging program). The group does not aim at profit making, but rather at maximizing the overall net benefit of keeping a cohesive network, which they have come to realize is a strategy to keep small scale farmers survive in a strong current of capitalism.

Tipparat Pongthanapanich


Imtiaz Ahmad Sustainable Development Consultant

I would like to thank the High Level Panel of Experts (HLPE) for seeking comments from stakeholders on the scope of the study on the Role of sustainable fisheries and aquaculture for food security and nutrition. My comments are in two parts: general and specific.


Sharpen focus of the scope of the study: In its request to the HLPE to conduct a study on the Role of sustainable fisheries and aquaculture for food security and nutrition, the Committee on World Food Security (CFS) expects that the report of this study will  be” policy oriented, practical and operational”. In its current form, the scope appears to be broad and as a consequence the CFS’s expectations might not be fully met. It will thus be helpful to consider sharpening the focus of the scope of the study. While in the case of some of the issues reported in the scope there is broad reference to work done by FAO and others, it needs to be expanded and recorded for other issues as well. Attaching a reference section at the end of the document will be useful, as was done in the scope of the study for food losses and waste in the context of sustainable food systems. Moreover, it will be more productive to highlight major analyses already done with regards to food and nutrition security under each of the issues and state what new grounds need to be specifically examined for the study (more comments are in the specific section below). In doing so, importance should be given to prioritization of the new areas to be analyzed.

Linkages with related food and nutrition studies and frameworks: In addition to the study on fisheries and aquaculture, the CFS requested the HLPE to conduct a number of interrelated studies, of which two are completed--- Food security and climate change, and Social protection for food security--- and two are ongoing---Investing in smallholder agriculture for food and nutrition security, and food losses and waste in the context of sustainable food systems. It will be useful to report in the scope of the study how the fisheries and aquaculture study intends to link with and draw on the work already done/or to be done under the other related studies, given that some of the related studies have covered fisheries and aquaculture as well. For example, in the case of smallholder agriculture study, agriculture is considered in a broad sense, including livestock production, forestry, fisheries, pastoral and aquaculture production. Similarly, in the Declaration of the 2009 World Summit on Food Security, agriculture comprises crops, livestock, forestry and fisheries, including aquaculture. In the Global Strategic Framework for Food Security and Nutrition ( consolidated version endorsed by the 39th session of the CFS ), references to small-scale food processors or to smallholder farmers are meant to include smallholder farmers, agriculture and food workers, artisanal fisher folk, pastoralists, indigenous peoples and the landless. 

Focus on lessons learnt, best practices and scaling up: Given that substantial work has been done with regards to food and nutrition security under various policy studies, programmes and projects, particularly in the agriculture sector, it will be useful to separately highlight in the scope of the fisheries and aquaculture study lessons learnt and best practices adopted, both of which could then form the building blocks for scaling up promising initiatives. The highlighting of this task will also contribute to meeting the expectations of the CFS, as stated earlier.


To substantiate the comments made in the general section, this section provides comments on some of the issues stated in the scope of the study.

Issue 7: How sustainable aquaculture can be promoted for food security and nutrition, as well as livelihoods, into the longer term?


This section needs to be reformulated to take into accounts recent developments. In this section, it is mentioned that: “It is essential to review the development of aquaculture and discuss the policy options for the sustainable development of this important sector in order to ensure its maximum contribution to food security and nutrition.”  The fact is FAO conducted a review of global aquaculture in 2010, the findings of which were discussed at a “Global conference on Aquaculture 2010” in Phuket, Thailand. The conference resulted in the Phuket Consensus and Strategy for Aquaculture Development.  The link to the FAO report, which was mostly drafted by me, is:  (FAO 2011).

Regarding aquaculture’s contributions to food security, the FAO report stressed the need to conduct a more systematic and quantitative evaluation of the impact of aquaculture. Following the Global conference, in October 2012, a major international initiative was launched to better understand the role of aquaculture in food security in poor countries. The initiative will help low-income food-deficit countries in Africa, Asia and Latin America to develop sustainable policies for improving the livelihoods of millions of poor people.  It will also elaborate strategies for improving the impact of aquaculture on food and nutrition security and poverty alleviation (see link).

Issue 10. What other policies and relevant technology options are available for waste minimisation, better resource accountability and management?                                                                        

In the scope of the study on food losses and waste in the context of sustainable food systems, the issues proposed for review are more focused and could be considered for inclusion in the scope of the study on fisheries and aquaculture. The issues are: concept/definitions, taking into account for quantities and quality of food lost and wasted; measuring and data availability (indicators, extension and trends); impacts: impacts of food losses and of food waste on the four dimensions of food and nutrition security; sustainable food systems: causes of food losses and of food waste; economic, social and environmental dimensions; public policies: present state of public policies; policies leading to or ignoring related food losses and waste; programmes aimed at reducing food losses and/or food waste. 

In this issue, there is also a call for a review of the current status of insurance in the fisheries sector, and an examination of its importance for food security and nutrition, followed by recommendations for improvement. First, it needs to be considered whether access to insurance and credit by smallholders, particularly women and youth, should be a standalone issue. Another point is that access to insurance and credit by small-scale aquaculture farmers was reviewed in the context of the global aquaculture 2010 review. New developments, particularly in Asia, were reported. In the case of capture fisheries, in 2009, FAO conducted a global review of the current state of world capture fisheries insurance (see link for the report, which has a number of papers prepared by me, ). At this stage, the fisheries and aquaculture study could assess the new or follow-up developments from a food security and nutrition perspective.


Imtiaz U Ahmad

Sustainable Development Consultant

(Former World Bank staff)

Ferit Rad Dept. of Aquaculture, Faculty of Fisheries, University of Mersin, Turkey

Please below kindly find few points for consideration;

With reference to item 3 and 4:

The issue of securing viability/sustainability of small–scale aquaculture farmers is as important as small-scale capture fisheries.

As far as sustainability (economic and social dimensions) is concerned; facilitating market access of small-scale farmers to modern market chain, collective actions (group certification or better aquaculture practices) and collection and dissemination of market data/information through empowering aquaculture farmer organizations are among important issues which need to be also addressed.

So issues which I think are missing and need to be addressed are;

  • Sustainability of small to medium-scale aquaculture farmers,
  • Role of fishermen/fish farmer organizations in sectoral management, self-regulation and capacity building on range of issues including market access, bio-security, and risk management.

Sincerely Yours

Ferit RAD (Prof. Dr., Aquaculture)

University of Mersin


Kate Barclay University of Technology Sydney, Australia

The scope of the study is vast. Some previous contributors say it is too vast and the study should be scaled back to tackle more limited problems. I would argue that the scope is appropriately comprehensive. One of the reasons for the failure in many attempts at fisheries management to date is precisely due to focusing on too limited a scope and efforts being stymied by external factors. Food security and sustainability in fisheries/aquaculture is a complex or ‘wicked’ problem and unfortunately cannot be adequately addressed by breaking it down into more digestible pieces.

The problem with a comprehensive approach is how to make the study manageable. There are a few ways this can be done. One way is to keep the broad scope but limit the study geographically. The results will not then be globally applicable, but could serve as the starting point for asking the right questions for other locations. One absolutely necessary approach is to make sure the Steering Committee and Project Team are properly multidisciplinary and able to collectively grasp and analyze the complex interrelated issues.

The Social in Fisheries

The scope document mentions at a few points that biological, economic and social factors all need to be considered (for example, Points 2 and 3), which is undoubtedly correct. But in practice it is not often well achieved in studies of sustainability. In particular the social is often not well integrated into understandings of problems or solutions. Insights from anthropology, sociology, political science, and environmental history would all help produce more effective and workable sustainable development policies but are rarely used in devising policies. On a basic level it is needed to better incorporate understandings of social, cultural and political contexts to better avoid the ‘blockages’ of lack of political will to implement policies, or social resistance against policies.

Social science researchers are well placed to let women involved with fisheries and aquaculture articulate the issues they face into the FAO study process and analyze how any changes in the sector would generate benefits or problems in terms of gender (Point 5).

Social science can contribute to understanding of issues surrounding small-scale fisheries (Point 4). One of the key issues for Pacific Island coastal fisheries is customary tenure, in that this form of property often clashes with commercial or industrial modes of production. Some pundits propose doing away with customary tenure and instituting private property regimes, but this is only likely to lead to dispossession and cultural breakdown. Approaches that appreciate the disparate worldviews coming to the table for resource management are needed to come up with creative solutions.

Disparate worldviews also arise as important not only for issues of customary tenure or Indigenous rights, but also more broadly to do with the philosophies behind regimes of natural resource management. Some biologists and economists have promoted a model based on use of market mechanisms and property rights. While there have been benefits from this model of resource management in terms of limiting catches in some fisheries, it would be a mistake to assume this model can be universally applied. Big players such as Japan explicitly reject this model of resource management, and the USA mostly does not use this kind of regime. The governance framework envisaged in the study must account for a diversity of approaches to governance, based on social science evidence-based research.

Point 2 notes that eco-system based management regimes are needed, but it has not yet been worked out how to do this kind of management in places without large government apparatus for data collection and monitoring. Social scientists working with biologists and economists looking at the available governance systems may be able to contribute to developing forms of eco-system based management feasible to implement in areas with limited government capacity.

Governance systems in themselves are complex for food security and resource management. Point 1 notes that ecolabels and traceability are important trends for the topic of the study, and these involve actors other than governments. Environmental non-governmental organizations have shifted the commercial landscape in fisheries over the last decade by exploiting the pressure point of reputational risk among seafood retailers in particular, boosting demand for ecolabeled products and other forms of avoiding bad press. Even the government actors are complex with global, regional, national and local-level government bodies all playing roles affecting food security and sustainable development in fisheries and aquaculture. Multi-organizational governance is the lens through which the various layers and types of stakeholders may be best understood. Their relative power relations as well as modes of operation are important to consider.

In this vein the value chain understanding noted in Points 4 and 9, which are important in terms of opportunities for both women and small-scale coastal fisheries, are also important for governance. The measures necessary to assure food security and sustainability from fisheries have to be effective all the way along the supply chain in globally traded commodities. National measures alone, and indeed government measures alone, are insufficient. Globalization thus offers obstacles for implementing policies for food security and sustainability, but also offers ways of working around the revenue shortages of small island states, for example.

I look forward to seeing more of this project and hope that the Steering Committee and Project Team are able to bring to fruition the ambitious aim to have a comprehensive approach to the study.

Kate Barclay

Member of the Australian Food, Society and Culture Network