Fisheries and aquaculture critical for global food supply says UN

Fisheries and aquaculture are of critical importance for global food security as well as recovering from the COVID-19 crisis, according to the director-general of the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations  (FAO), Qu Dongyu.

Qu addressed the opening of the 34th session of the FAO Committee on Fisheries (COFI).

COFI is the only global inter-governmental forum where FAO Members meet to review and consider the issues and challenges related to fisheries and aquaculture and is being held virtually for the first time this week.

In his remarks, Qu noted that the COVID-19 pandemic has affected the fisheries and aquaculture sector through changing consumer demands, market access and logistical problems related to transportation and border restrictions.

He also highlighted that fisheries and aquaculture are essential for the world economy to build back better from the COVID-19 crisis.

“The fisheries and aquaculture sector has a crucial contribution to make within the ‘Four Betters’: Better Production, Better Nutrition, Better Environment and Better Life.”

“The potential of a modern aquaculture to grow and feed the world is extraordinary,” Qu said, noting that 10 percent of the world’s population relies on the fisheries and aquaculture sector for their livelihoods, mostly small producers that need support.

FAO’s  State of World Fisheries and Aquaculture (SOFIA) , issued in June 2020, estimates that total fish production is set to increase to 204 million tonnes in 2030, up 15 percent from 2018, with aquaculture’s share growing from its current 46 percent.

Aquaculture has been the fastest expanding food production sector globally for the last 50 years, growing at an average of 5.3 percent per year since the turn of the century.

The director-general invited FAO Members to take advantage of COFI 34 to discuss how the production, processing, trade and consumption of aquatic foods can be transformed as part of a broader agri-food systems transformation, making them more sustainable, resilient and inclusive.

“We know that land alone will not feed us with abundant quantity and food diversity – we need blue transformation to secure blue food production,” he added, stressing the importance of modernizing traditional fishing culture with innovative approaches and digital technologies.

“Combining fisheries with tourism and educational activities is a way of keeping the cultural heritage alive and creating new values and new job opportunities,” Qu cited as an example.

The director-general also pointed out the benefits of fish in diets, especially for pregnant women, children and in combatting all forms of malnutrition, stressing that fish should be promoted in food and nutrition strategies across the world.