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Can sardine, sardinella, pilchard and anchovy contribute to better nutrition and food security in Africa?


In 2017, "Nutrition and Food Safety" was implemented as its own theme in the new phase of the EAF-Nansen Programme for the first time. This research area is intended to increase knowledge on the nutritional importance of fish as food in developing countries. Fish and other seafoods have until now been underrepresented in strategies to combat and prevent hunger and malnutrition in these countries. Instead, supplementation or fortification of vegetable foods with micronutrients such as iodine, vitamin A, iron, and zinc have been assessed rather than seafood as a contribution to these micronutrients. Small fish eaten whole is regarded an unique source of these micronutrients, and contains in addition calcium and marine fatty acids.

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Anne Karin with samples at the IMR laboratory © IMR

"Many will probably be surprised to hear that there is generally little data on nutrients in seafood" says Marian Kjellevold, Head of Research at the Institute of Marine Research (IMR) in Norway, and add that, "In local food nutrition tables from Africa and Asia, most of the values are borrowed from other countries, or estimated".

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Amalie in IMR laboratory, working on samples © IMR

Starting in the fall of 2019, laboratories at IMR will conduct over 1700 analyzes on 29 samples of small pelagics such as sardine, sardinellas, pilchard and anchovy. The collection of samples were carried out along the African coast in 2017, starting in Morocco in the north, all the way down to Namibia in the south. In many countries these species are commonly eaten whole with skins, bones and viscera intact, and therefore potentially have a high nutrient density compared to species where only the fillet is consumed.

This project, carried out by IMR under the EAF Nansen Programme, will help fill knowledge gaps concerning both the nutrient content and the content of environmental toxins and unwanted substances in small pelagics found off West Africa.

"This research project is unique as it covers important stocks over a large geographic area. The analytical data generated are necessary to fill knowledge gaps on how small pelagics can contribute to fighting hunger and malnutrition in developing countries. Using IMRs own laboratories and standardized sampling protocols and research methods we will by regular monitoring also be able to learn more about the environmental impacts on nutritional content and food safety aspects on these species" says Kjellevold.

Scientists at the University of Ghana and CSIR-Food Research Institute (Accra, Ghana) will take the lead in writing the papers, and co-authors from all countries involved in the sample collection will contribute to the work in collaboration with the IMR staff.

The EAF-Nansen Programme "Supporting the Application of the Ecosystem Approach to Fisheries Management considering Climate and Pollution Impacts" is an initiative to support the implementation of the ecosystem approach in the management of marine fisheries. The aim is to promote sustainable utilization of marine living resources and improved protection of the marine environment. The program is executed by FAO in close collaboration with IMR in Norway, and funded by the Norwegian Agency for Development Cooperation (Norad).

Learn more about the eleven themes that make up the three pillars of EAF Nansen Programme's Science Plan here.

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