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

Jogeir Toppe FAO, Italy
22.03.2013

Dear CFS-HLPE Coordinator,

I am pleased to see that the Committee on World Food Security and the High Level Panel of Experts are recognizing the significant role fisheries and aquaculture play in food security and nutrition. However, I would like to provide a few comments to the draft scope on “The Role of Sustainable Fisheries and Aquaculture for Food Security and Nutrition”:

Role of fish in food security and nutrition

Fish and fisheries products are important sources of protein, but the role of fish in food security and nutrition is more than a provider of animal protein and livelihoods to vulnerable populations; this fact cannot be left out in a report covering the role of fisheries and aquaculture in food security and nutrition! Although fish is a unique source of high quality protein, fish is an even more important source of other nutrients such as essential long chained omega-3 fatty acids (EPA, DHA), minerals/trace elements and vitamins. For some nutrients, such as the long chained omega-3 fatty acids, iodine and vitamin D, fish is the main, and in most cases the only significant and natural food source available.

Fish and fishery products have an important role as a source of nutrients particularly important for brain and neurodevelopment in children, underlining the importance of fish in the diets for women of childbearing age, infants and young children. The report of the “joint FAO/WHO expert consultation on the risks and benefits of fish” clearly underlined the importance of fish in our diets, particularly for the most vulnerable groups; young children and women of childbearing age: http://www.fao.org/docrep/014/ba0136e/ba0136e00.pdf

Small size fish of low economic value are often the ones with the highest nutritional value; eaten whole with heads and bones they are excellent sources of micronutrients in addition to providing valuable protein and essential fats.

Aquaculture, sustainability and food/nutrition security

Aquaculture is providing close to 50% of fish for human consumption and will be the main provider of fisheries products in the very near future. A sustainable management of fish farming is crucial, and feeding fish opt for human consumption to fish is a dilemma. However, significant resources are used on research looking for alternatives to fishmeal and fish oil. Despite the growing aquaculture production, total volumes of fish oil and fishmeal used for aquaculture have stabilized, or even started to go down. Raw material for fishmeal and fish oil is also more and more based on waste products from fish processing rather than fish.

The report mentions farmed species such as salmon, shrimp and oysters, species that provide livelihoods to many people. However, these species are mainly consumed by populations with a purchasing power far beyond the global average; they are hardly food insecure and are less affected by malnutrition. Farmed species such as carps (cyprinids) and tilapia have a much greater direct and indirect contribution to food security and nutrition. Total production of e.g. carps is more than ten times the production of salmonids, and utilizes only a fraction of fishmeal and fish oil (if anything at all) compared to carnivorous species. Carps provide more than ten times more protein than salmonids, and even though salmon is an extremely good source of long chained omega-3 fatty acids carps are much more important providers of these essential fatty acids due to their production volumes.

In 2010 around 20 million tonnes of seaweed was produced. This is a an important cash crop and a unique provider of essential nutrients to many diets, particularly as a source of essential minerals.

Best regards,

Jogeir Toppe
Fisheries Industry Officer
FAO-FIPM