Expansion and intensification of aquaculture and effective management of all fisheries are necessary but insufficient conditions for Blue Transformation.17 In order to achieve its ultimate goals of enhancing the contribution of aquatic systems to secure food security and nutrition and sustain livelihoods, aquatic value chains require innovations to make them more efficient, transparent, responsive, inclusive and equitable.
Competitive value chains
Trade and market access
International trade in fisheries and aquaculture products17 generates significant income and supports poverty reduction and food security, particularly for developing countries, where small-scale fishers, fish farmers and women are strongly represented in the associated value chains.
Traded fisheries and aquaculture products often face a complex set of market access requirements, partly due to the prevalence of non-tariff measures (NTMs), distortion associated with fisheries subsidies, and tariff escalation.18 According to the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD), NTMs affect fisheries and aquaculture products more than other products in terms of quantity and intensity, making it more complex for the sector to fulfil regulatory requirements (Fugazzi, 2017).
Furthermore, tariff escalation considerably limits the possibility of value addition for developing countries and small-scale producers. The import duty on many fisheries and aquaculture products differs substantially between raw and processed products, particularly in many traditional importing countries, with higher tariffs imposed on processed products, thus disincentivizing value addition and job creation, and reducing possibilities for greater value retention.
The number of trade agreements has been increasing in recent decades, as they play an ever greater role in dictating the rules for global trade flows. The 82regional trade agreements in force in 2000 had increased to 310 by 2020. One of the main objectives of trade agreements is to create preferential trade possibilities with reduced import duties for participating countries. However, trade agreements are becoming more complex, with increasingly intricate rules, covering more policy areas and focusing on NTMs such as trade facilitation, information sharing, and mutual recognition of standards and regulations. Some new trade agreements explicitly support sustainability by combining trade preferences with new clauses addressing illegal, unreported and unregulated (IUU) fishing, fisheries subsidies, port State and conservation measures, catch documentation schemes, and bycatch and discard mitigation.
Any product destined to benefit from preferential access must comply with rules of origin to attest that it was produced or substantially transformed in a participating country. To take account of maritime zone parameters determining wild capture criteria, many trade agreements may include additional requirements, potentially reducing preferential access for these products.
Within the Committee on Fisheries Sub-Committee on Fish Trade (COFI:FT) and through GLOBEFISH, FAO has been promoting an inclusive forum to debate and inform about market access, NTMs, preferential access and international trade compliance. In addition, FAO continues to conduct specific studies and analyses, develop knowledge products, and implement capacity-building and technical assistance activities, including in cooperation with UNCTAD and the World Trade Organization to reduce market access asymmetries.
Loss and waste
Food loss and waste (FLW) is a major concern in the fisheries and aquaculture value chain. It can occur at different stages of the chain, from production and harvest through to final consumption. The underlying causes and drivers of losses are the highly perishable nature of aquatic products19 and inefficiencies in value chains, due to inadequate infrastructure and lack of knowledge and skills of the involved actors. Specific sociocultural, institutional and economic contexts may also be contributing factors.
Reducing FLW can lead to economic benefits, with positive impacts on food and nutrition security and natural resource-use efficiency, and can reduce pressure on fishery stocks and environmental impacts.
Food loss and waste varies significantly by income level. In middle- and high-income countries, food waste occurs primarily during distribution and consumption, and is usually associated with lack of coordination, consumer behaviour, aesthetics and retail standards (e.g. colour and size), labelling, and over-purchasing. In low-income countries, FLW is almost non-existent at the consumption level but occurs at production, and during transportation, processing, storage and sale (HLPE, 2014). More particularly, in least developed countries (LDCs), poor infrastructure – including lack of access to electricity, potable water, roads, ice, cold storage, cured product storage and refrigerated transport – has the most significant impact on FLW.
Design of adapted solutions requires a correct understanding of the magnitude, impact and causes of FLW, and of the roles of the various actors. Any solution should reflect the complexity of the fisheries and aquaculture value chains and the interconnectivity of their different stages. Therefore, FLW solutions often require actions involving governance, technology, skills and knowledge, services and infrastructure, social and gender equity, and good linkages to and understanding of markets, with the engagement of the public and private sectors, civil society, non-governmental organizations (NGOs), research and academia. These requirements are delineated in the FAO Voluntary Code of Conduct for Food Loss and Waste Reduction.20
The variety of issues and possible solutions involved requires a multidimensional approach – one that embraces established and innovative techniques and takes account of the dynamic nature of fisheries and aquaculture value chains. FISH4ACP FAO project (Box 17) demonstrates how the potential of fisheries and aquaculture value chains can be unlocked.
BOX 17FISH4ACP – UNLOCKING THE POTENTIAL OF SUSTAINABLE FISHERIES AND AQUACULTURE VALUE CHAINS IN AFRICA, THE CARIBBEAN AND THE PACIFIC
Fisheries and aquaculture production is expanding in many African, Caribbean and Pacific (ACP) countries. However, this growth has not only been slow, but also uneven between regions and countries, and the benefits do not always reach the communities that rely on them for livelihoods and food security. In addition, poor fisheries and aquaculture practices can place stress on the environments in which they operate.
The Organisation of African, Caribbean and Pacific States launched a major programme, FISH4ACP, to optimize economic returns and social benefits from value chains in 12 ACP countries while minimizing detrimental effects on natural habitats, biodiversity and aquatic resources, and tackling some of the underlying challenges in building sustainable fisheries and aquaculture sectors. The project is implemented by FAO with funding from the European Union and the German Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development.
Launched in 2020, the programme’s first phase (2020–2022) is based on a thorough value chain analysis for the assessment of the social, environmental and economic sustainability of selected fisheries or aquaculture value chains in benefiting countries. This phase also comprises the development of an upgrading strategy and action plan for the coming years of project activities to enhance productivity and competitiveness, ensuring that economic improvements go hand in hand with environmental sustainability and social inclusiveness.
Specifically, the programme focuses on:
- helping actors to develop a good understanding of their value chains and of ways and means for their improvement;
- opening up new markets for micro, small and medium-sized enterprises and enhancing the business and regulatory environments;
- creating better working conditions along the value chain;
- making the value chains more environmentally sustainable and resilient to shocks; and
- helping fisheries and aquaculture businesses attract and access additional sources of finance and investment.
In 2021, FISH4ACP conducted a series of workshops to discuss the findings of these analyses. The main stakeholders were involved, including representatives from both the public and the private sectors, to inform the upgrading and development strategies that will guide project activities in each of the 12 countries from 2022 to 2025.
This stakeholder engagement is a key project component to ensure that actors are directly involved in strategic discussions and decision-making from the outset, with a multi-stakeholder platform established for each of the value chains to maximize the sustainability and impact of the project.
To learn more about FISH4ACP and the countries involved, please visit the following resources:
To feed a growing global population with safe and nutritious food, efficient and effective food control systems are vital for consumer protection and trade promotion of fisheries and aquaculture products.
Food control authorities face multiple challenges in many countries, often due to gaps in the food safety regulatory frameworks, lack of coordination among authorities with food control responsibilities, and inadequate resources, including workforce, equipment, infrastructure and reliable control technologies. Furthermore, access to production and processing locations can sometimes be challenging. Innovative and digital solutions are being implemented to overcome some of these challenges, particularly following the outbreak of COVID-19. Remote inspection21 to ensure product safety has proven to be reliable to deliver the necessary sanitary certificates to operators. Electronic certification systems can improve traceability throughout the supply chains, reduce delays and costs, decrease food waste by speeding up the process, combat fraudulent practices by introducing electronic authentication methods, and build trust among trading partners. To improve current processes, Codex Alimentarius is currently revising its guidance to expand official certification to e-certification. In addition, food control e-notification portals provide authorities with an effective tool to exchange real-time information about measures taken when severe risks are detected, helping countries act more quickly and in a coordinated manner in response to health threats. In this regard, FAO is exploring possible solutions under the Digital Solutions in Support of Improved Official Food Control Services project, which focuses on strengthening national capacities to develop and implement e-notification portals, in addition to carrying out remote inspections, supporting distance learning on food safety management, and broadening data pools in support of continuous development of risk categorization frameworks and other risk-based decision-making instruments.
Digital solutions, including e-certification using e-notification portals, can support resource optimization and achieve more effective and efficient food control services that respond to crises and promote transparency among trading partners.
Like its application for the production of other foods (e.g. chicken, beef), cell culture-based aquatic products can be a “game-changing technology” for aquatic food22 production (Rubio et al., 2019). Food safety and quality of novel foods must be given due consideration to address the specific implications for consumer protection, public health and trade. In this regard, FAO and the World Health Organization (WHO) are collaborating, including through the Codex Alimentarius, to identify and assess food safety hazards linked to the consumption of novel foods to provide the basis for further work for their control (Codex Alimentarius Commission, 2021).
Consumer perception of the value of fisheries and aquaculture products can be associated with their tangible and non-tangible characteristics. Processing, which results in changing the product form or adding new tangible attributes, can increase product value. However, enhancing the non-tangible characteristics, which are not necessarily associated with the production process but rather with personal interaction, is a viable alternative to value addition.
In recent decades, consumers have shown an increasing interest in the origin of fisheries and aquaculture products. The provision of this information, including health benefits, the sustainability of the production methods and the livelihoods of the people involved along the value chain, can add this intangible value. Product information can be communicated through business-to-business (B2B) product certification or business-to-consumer (B2C) product labelling. For example, new e-commerce approaches help producers, including those from rural areas, to connect directly with new or existing customers and link an appealing story to the product.
Full-chain traceability systems can support the transmission of information along the value chain by providing knowledge about the product’s journey, potentially increasing the product’s perceived value if effectively utilized. Electronic traceability systems, including blockchain technology, are expanding to ensure transparency, data security and integrity, and rapid data transfer along the value chain.
The fashion industry’s innovative and increased use of aquatic resources creates new opportunities (e.g. use of fish leather) for value addition in the fisheries and aquaculture sector. Despite the obstacles faced, such as scepticism towards fashion products of fish origin, unreliable supply of quality raw material and limited access to finance, there are examples of local communities that have launched successful ventures, creating alternative employment opportunities and proving that this value-adding opportunity can be a realistic option for those with an entrepreneurial mindset.
“Pescatourism” offers the opportunity to generate income streams for fishers, fish farmers and their communities while also protecting the environment and local cultural heritage. It encompasses fishing excursions, recreational fishing, tours of fish farms and fishing villages, food tasting of local delicacies, cookery courses, and even accommodation offered by local fishers. There are numerous opportunities for pescatourism in many developing countries, given the presence of natural and often unspoiled beauty spots.
Furthermore, the fisheries and aquaculture sector has the potential to create non-market value through positive externalities and thus provide broader benefits to society. Examples include regulating services, such as carbon sequestration and nutrient remediation in extractive forms of aquaculture (e.g. seaweed, bivalve molluscs), provision of habitat for other organisms and, not least, cultural services such as historical artisanal fisheries with public, educational, symbolic and spiritual benefits.
Fish-based fashion products, pescatourism and other innovative ways of enhancing economic returns to the fisheries and aquaculture sector offer viable alternatives to maximize value addition beyond the conventional options. The combination of traditional and innovative value addition paves the way for improving the sector’s sustainability, including the livelihoods of small-scale operators and their communities. Value addition opportunities can also be generated by using renewable energy solutions (Box 18).
BOX 18RENEWABLE ENERGY USE IN SMALL-SCALE FISHERIES AND AQUACULTURE VALUE CHAINS
The fisheries and aquaculture sector, from production through post-harvest processes, marketing and distribution, is highly dependent on energy, particularly from fossil fuels.1
Energy use varies widely among the different fisheries and aquaculture value chain stages. Energy is a crucial cost element over which the sector has limited control, generating considerable impacts on profits and livelihoods. Post-harvest processing activities, distribution and trade, whether in aquaculture or capture fisheries, are heavily dependent not only on fossil fuels and electricity, but also on wood for fish smoking. Moreover, the cold chain is fundamental for preserving and preventing the loss of highly perishable harvest. Access to reliable and affordable sources of energy is a major challenge in developing countries, due to non-availability of infrastructure and prohibitive costs, especially in rural areas, causing severe disruption of cold chains during storage and processing2 and leading to significant loss of aquatic products.
For example, energy demand in African economies is expected to nearly double by 2040 as population grows and living standards improve.2 Although many African countries are net importers of fossil energy, there are numerous developing communities in sub-Saharan Africa and Asia where renewable energy resources are available; their exploitation can foster the creation of new jobs, economic growth, and social and health benefits while mitigating climate change impacts.3
In particular, there is a significant rise in the use of solar energy for refrigeration and cold storage. Small-scale renewable infrastructure costs are often about the same as or lower than those for a large-scale centralized electricity grid.2 Thanks to technological developments and incentives, the cost of electricity from solar photovoltaic (PV) decreased by 82 percent between 2010 and 2019, while the cost of onshore wind fell by 40 percent. In many countries, renewable energy is now at par or, in some cases, the least-cost option for new electricity generation.3
There is increasing scope for renewable energy and a need to promote it for applications at all stages of small-scale fisheries and aquaculture value chains. However, technologies are at different stages of maturity, and not all technologies are equally applicable and economically viable across countries and communities. Solar PV systems can be used to charge motors of fishing boats, power aquaculture equipment (feeders, pumps, aerators, security lighting), and run processing, ice-making, refrigeration and cold storage appliances, including during transport and retail. Biofuels can power aquaculture equipment, vending carts and distribution of aquatic products. Geothermal heat, available in many developing countries, can provide energy to warm water in aquaculture or for fish drying, while micro-hydroelectric systems can provide clean electricity for aquaculture.4
Renewable energy solutions could deliver clean energy and flexible options and provide opportunities for value addition to off-grid remote fishing and aquaculture communities struggling with access to reliable energy sources and the high and variable cost of fossil fuels. Seizing these opportunities will require strong political will together with policies to incentivize investment in building infrastructure for the efficient adoption of renewable energy.3
- 1 FAO. 2015. Fuel and energy use in the fisheries sector: Approaches, inventories and strategic implications. FAO Fisheries and Aquaculture Circular No. C1080. Rome. www.fao.org/3/i5092e/i5092e.pdf
- 2 FAO. 2016. How access to energy can influence food losses: A brief overview. Environment and Natural Resources Management Working Paper No. 65. Rome. www.fao.org/documents/card/en/c/86761a85-0e35-4b89-b2ac-691be59c714a
- 3 IRENA. 2020. The renewable energy transition in Africa. Country studies for Côte d’Ivoire, Ghana, South Africa, Morocco and Rwanda. Abu Dhabi, IRENA, and Eschborn, Germany, GIZ.
- 4 Micro-hydro turbines can be a very efficient and convenient form of small-scale renewable electricity to power electric heaters to maintain pond or tank water temperature and replace diesel generators in fish farms. For more information, refer to:
FAO. (forthcoming). Renewable energy, post-harvest practices, and small-scale value chains: Current status and way forward. Rome.
Transparent and responsible value chains
Traceability systems, including their associated elements of transparency, represent a crucial concerted effort towards transparent and responsible value chains. They allow a product to be followed from its origin to the end market, informing about compliance with many fisheries regulations (Hosch and Blaha, 2017), as well as food safety and certification requirements (Figure 56).
FIGURE 56TRACEABILITY IN VALUE CHAINS OF AQUATIC PRODUCTS: A SIMPLE REPRESENTATION
However, given the globalized landscape in the trade of fisheries and aquaculture products, coupled with the inherent fragmentation of associated value chains, the implementation of efficient traceability systems at the governmental and private levels presents challenges. For example, industry, governments and even consumers may lack commitment to or awareness of the benefits of the traceability system principles, or there may be a lack of availability of the technology and standards necessary for its implementation (Borit and Olsen, 2016).
To overcome some of these challenges, FAO held an international seminar on Sustainable Seafood Value Chain: Traceability in November 2018 (FAO, 2018a); recommendations were proposed, including identification and documentation of the benefits and incentives of adopting traceability systems and reporting of success cases (Borit and Olsen, 2020).
Given the interconnectivity of fisheries and aquaculture value chains, collaboration at all stages is crucial for robust end-to-end traceability. Most current systems are fragmented and internal to individual companies; this creates information gaps throughout the supply chain and loss of operational efficiency. It is therefore key that supply chain partners agree to not only share some level of data but also increase interoperability (Blaha, 2017).
To facilitate and further promote this collaboration and considering the digital revolution transforming food systems, FAO supports strengthening of traceability systems to improve compliance (Hosch and Blaha, 2017), anchored on effectiveness, efficiency and interoperability.23 To this end, online public (FAO, 2021f) and regional consultations were organized within the development framework of the draft guidance on advancing end-to-end traceability: critical tracking events (CTEs) and key data elements (KDEs) along capture fisheries and aquaculture value chains.
Catch documentation schemes
Catch documentation schemes (CDS) are an essential tool to combat IUU fishing. CDS certificates and trade documents validated by national competent authorities establish that products have been legally sourced and accompany the harvested aquatic animals from fishing grounds to markets, certifying that the catch was sourced in compliance with all applicable requirements. In 2017, FAO Members adopted the Voluntary Guidelines for Catch Documentation Schemes (VGCDS) to assist in developing and harmonizing new and existing schemes.
To complement the VGCDS, FAO has been working on guidance (FAO, 2022b) to support national authorities to understand and implement CDS. In particular, the guidance aims to align and improve existing national monitoring, control and surveillance (MCS) tools and product tracking systems to meet internal and external demands for legal provenance documentation. During the development of the guidance, it was observed that while KDEs can vary quite substantially between schemes, the certifications underpinning a CDS (e.g. certifying the identity of the fishing vessel and whether it was operating legally) are often the same.
The guidance recommends that national authorities consider which KDEs must be verified and validated in their jurisdiction to certify the product’s conformity with legal requirements. National authorities are encouraged to consider how existing verification systems or tools (e.g. vessel authorization and fishing license databases or traceability audits) can be more effectively used to strengthen validation processes for flag States, port States, market States and States which store, process or export fisheries products. Countries are also encouraged to ensure the traceability of legal provenance in order to avoid laundering uncertified fisheries products and maintain the integrity of the certified supply chain.
To ensure its practicality, the guidance was trialled in workshops involving fisheries and customs authorities in several countries resulting in the refinement of the document. Efforts to strengthen national processes for compiling and sharing legal provenance data within a CDS framework will continue under FAO’s Global Programme to support the Implementation of the Port State Measures Agreement (PSMA) and Complementary International Instruments, Regional Mechanisms and Tools to Combat IUU Fishing.
Fishing is one of the three most hazardous occupations according to the International Labour Organization (ILO). Decent working conditions along the fisheries and aquaculture value chain are key to mitigating risks for the numerous people relying on the sector for their income, livelihood or employment. Unsustainable practices may trigger different social problems at the various stages of the fisheries and aquaculture value chain, especially for vulnerable people such as migrant workers, women and children. For example, in IUU fishing, migrant workers are more exposed to modern slavery, bondage, forced labour and other abuses. The absence of social protection, social security or healthcare, the non-existence of formal working relationships (i.e. work contracts), and inadequate working conditions are all structural problems that persist throughout the fisheries and aquaculture value chain. In addition, environmental concerns, such as climate change and biodiversity loss, are likely to compound these social issues as coastal communities are often the most exposed to those risks.
There are various international instruments (conventions, guidelines, etc.) addressing human and labour rights aiming to ensure equitable social practices. However, their complexity and diversity create implementation challenges for stakeholders in the fisheries and aquaculture sector. In addition, since March 2020, the COVID-19 outbreak has disrupted supply chains and added new health hazards to already precarious employment conditions. Many employers could not invest the necessary resources to provide personal protective and sanitation equipment or reorganize the workspace to allow effective social distancing. Trade disruptions also led to reduced sales income affecting workers and employers alike, sometimes leading to bankruptcy and its social consequences.
In 2019, FAO conducted a multi-stakeholder consultative process worldwide to develop practical guidance on social responsibility in the sector involving representatives from the industry, governments, NGOs, trade unions, regional bodies, international organizations and academia, among others.
The guidance will cover the different fisheries and aquaculture value chain stages, consolidating existing relevant international instruments and tools in a voluntary, non-binding and practical document to assist policymakers and address this increasingly complex environment. It will adopt a human and labour rights due diligence approach when considering risk and development in the sector to foster equitable social practices. Although the guidance will focus on the private sector’s responsibilities, it can also be relevant to other stakeholders interested in supporting and ensuring social responsibility compliance in fisheries and aquaculture value chains.
Integrated and resilient value chains
Blue fishing ports
A fishing port represents a vital link for many actors in the fisheries and aquaculture value chain (fishers, buyers, sellers, service providers, public and private institutions). It can play multiple social, economic and environmental roles from a local, regional, national and global angle. Fishing ports can promote sustainable fisheries and aquaculture, catalyse the reduction of waste and environmental pollution, foster the preservation of the nutritional attributes of aquatic food, ensure quality, and create incentives for fair prices and increased exports.
The FAO Blue Fishing Ports initiative is an innovative scheme to strengthen the role of ports as drivers of sustainable development in coastal cities and communities, maximizing data collection and enforcement, upgrading infrastructure and services, thus addressing national and global challenges of sustainable development in marine and coastal areas.
The initiative aims to leverage the strategic position of fishing ports in the fisheries and aquaculture value chains to promote positive and sustainable socio-economic growth while reducing their environmental impact. Having the proper infrastructure in place and how a port is managed and maintained are crucial considerations. In addition, the Blue Fishing Ports initiative also contributes to poverty alleviation and food security by strengthening food quality, reducing FLW, preserving natural resources, reinforcing the value chain, and enforcing labour rights and gender equality within the marine sectors (Figure 57).
FIGURE 57FAO BLUE FISHING PORTS INITIATIVE
The development of this FAO initiative was widely inclusive and participatory, initiated after the Thirty-third Session of the Committee on Fisheries in 2018, to engage the private sector around the principles of sustainable development of ocean economies. Governmental and non-governmental representatives from ports of Africa, Asia, America and Europe were brought together to share experiences, information and best practices during workshops and dedicated meetings. An FAO umbrella programme is being established with the collaboration of several ports and fisheries authorities worldwide and the support of regional and multilateral organizations. It aims to support fishing ports to design and implement sustainable Blue Transformation strategies that ensure a balance between social, economic and environmental dimensions.
The Blue Fishing Ports initiative has started specific actions, including capacity-building, knowledge management and technical assistance, with the participation of 20 ports authorities, fisheries sector administrations and the cooperation of international organizations, in particular the Intergovernmental Oceanographic Commission (IOC-UNESCO), the World Bank, ILO and the International Maritime Organization (IMO).
In December 2021, IOC-UNESCO and FAO launched a capacity-building programme for port authorities to include the marine spatial planning approach as part of strategic and operational processes and to showcase good practices. In addition, global fishing ports and landing sites mapping will be carried out which will help to identify streamlining possibilities of maritime value chains development.
The significant increase in aquatic food production and availability in the last decade was fuelled by various factors, including higher demand for sustainable, diversified, affordable and nutritious fisheries and aquaculture products. To access these markets, producers and processors must integrate in their strategies evolving demand and multiple consumer patterns and behaviours.
The supply and demand of fisheries and aquaculture products have been evolving in recent years, with an increasing impact of economic, environmental and social sustainability elements in addition to the conventional parameters of price and food safety.
The COVID-19 pandemic further affected consumer patterns. At the beginning of the pandemic and during its successive waves, household consumption of aquatic food shrank dramatically, fishing activities were suspended and fish markets were closed. Where and when restrictions were lifted, species traditionally directed to the hotel, restaurant and catering sector faced supply and distribution issues. The pandemic was also characterized by consumers rushing to stockpile long shelf-life foods such as canned aquatic products.
Confinement of citizens in their homes and temporary closure of the hospitality sector redirected fisheries and aquaculture products to supermarkets and other end-consumer distribution points. Many high-value species were incorporated into home-prepared meals for household groups who did not normally consume such species or only on specific occasions at restaurants. Online sales and home delivery of fisheries and aquaculture products increased.
Market requirements continue to evolve as NGOs and consumers increase their focus on the social and environmental responsibility aspects of fisheries and aquaculture production24 and trade. Aquatic foods are also crucial in promoting healthy diets as illustrated in Box 19.
BOX 19FISH AND OTHER AQUATIC FOODS IN HEALTHY DIETS AND SUSTAINABLE FOOD SYSTEMS1
Fish and other aquatic foods from fisheries and aquaculture are recognized as a unique source of high-quality bioavailable animal proteins and unique micronutrients such as omega-3 fatty acids, vitamins and minerals, vital for physical and cognitive development, from foetal growth through infancy and childhood, and for maintaining good nutrition and health throughout adolescence and adulthood.
In order to meet the planetary health dietary recommendations of 28 g of fish per day per person,2 the demand for fisheries and aquaculture products is high, estimated in 2019 at 10.2 kg per capita per year. Given the current sustainability constraints and supply options, availability of aquatic foods can be enhanced by reducing food loss and waste and developing innovative, nutritious and palatable products using non-targeted species, by-products and low-trophic aquatic foods. To reach this goal, these aquatic food products must be prioritized for human consumption and alternatives to their use in animal feeds should be explored.
Consumption of whole fish, where feasible, is highly recommended in both nutritional and environmental terms. In many areas of the world, small fish species are consumed whole, including head, eyes, bones and viscera – an essential source of micronutrients. This differs from the utilization ratio of tilapia, tuna or salmon fish fillets with only 30–70 percent of the fish consumed, while the remainder is discarded.3 Existing simple processing technologies can convert heads and bones into nutritious and delicious products. The use of whole small fish or processed by-products has been shown to improve the nutrient content of meals while also reducing cost and increasing the availability of fish, particularly in school feeding programmes. For example, tuna frame powder was highly acceptable to schoolchildren in Ghana when added to traditional recipes in school meals,4 while in Guatemala, heads and bones from tilapia were successfully processed and included in school meals, increasing the fish utilization ratio from as low as 30 percent to over 80 percent.5
The COVID-19 pandemic has exacerbated food insecurity and is expected to have long-term impacts in terms of greater prevalence of undernourishment and stunting.6 In building back better, aquatic foods can play a crucial role in promoting health for people and the planet as part of a diet with other nutritious foods.
- 1 See also Box 24.
- 2 Willet, W., Rockstrom, J., Loken, B., Springmann, M., Lang, T., Vermeulen, S., Garnett, T. et al. 2019. Food in the Anthropocene: the EAT-Lancet Commission on healthy diets from sustainable food systems. Lancet, 393(10170): 447–492. https://doi.org/10.1016/S0140-6736(18)31788-4
- 3 Olsen, R.L., Toppe, J. & Karunasagar, I. 2014. Challenges and realistic opportunities in the use of by-products from processing of fish and shellfish. Trends in Food Science and Technology, 36(2): 144–151.
- 4 Glover-Amengor, M., Ottah Atikpo, M.A., Abbey, L.D., Hagan, L., Ayin, J. & Toppe, J. 2012. Proximate composition and consumer acceptability of three underutilized fish species and tuna frames. World Rural Observations, 4(2): 65–70. www.sciencepub.net/rural/rural0402/011_9765rural0402_65_70.pdf
- 5 FAO. 2018. Guatemala’s school-feeding law prioritizes child nutrition and family farming. In: FAO. Rome. Cited 17 March 2022. www.fao.org/guatemala/noticias/detail-events/en/c/1103375
- 6 FAO, IFAD, UNICEF, WFP & WHO. 2021. The State of Food Security and Nutrition in the World 2021. Transforming food systems for food security, improved nutrition and affordable healthy diets for all. Rome, FAO. https://doi.org/10.4060/cb4474en