A visionary ‘blue transformation’ strategy to improve underwater food systems — Global Issues

On the third day of the conference, which highlighted the state of the global fisheries sector and the sustainability of aquaculture, the UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) flagship report State of World Fisheries and Aquaculture was launched.

Growing demand for fish and other aquatic foods is rapidly changing the entire industry, with consumption expected to increase, primarily driven by rapid population growth, changes in post-harvest practices and distribution, as well as food trends aimed at better health and nutrition. .

Is sustainability at sea realistic?

According to the FAO, founded in 1945 to alleviate hunger, current demand and approaches to meeting the needs of 10 billion people as populations grow are putting food systems under pressure, while climate change, COVID-19, environment, and conflict puts them to the test.

The State of World Fisheries and Aquaculture (SOFIA) flagship report analyzes the status of global stocks and trends in fisheries and aquaculture, including at the regional level.

By focusing on ‘Blue Transformation’, a visionary strategy designed to increase the potential of underwater food systems and sustainably feed the growing global population, SOFIA serves as a critical reference for governments, policy makers, academics and others in the industry .

A “blue transformation” in how we can produce, manage, trade and consume aquatic food to achieve the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals or SDGs, FAO said.

As the sector continues to grow, the FAO says more targeted transformative changes are needed to achieve a more sustainable, inclusive and equitable fisheries and aquaculture sector and combat the growing threat of food insecurity.

Speaking to the press, Manuel Barange, director of the FAO Fisheries and Aquaculture Department, emphasized that this was the first time such an important report has been launched outside the FAO headquarters in Rome.

Record high

According to the FAO, the growth of aquaculture, especially in Asia, boosted total production in the sector to a record high of 214 million tons in 2020, comprising 178 million tons of aquatic products and 36 million tons of algae for consumption.

Production in 2020 was 30 percent above the 2000s average and more than 60 percent above the 1990s average.

“There is real concern about the price of fish, the price of food in general, but the price of fish in particular.” which grew by 25 percent compared to December last yearuntil April this year. [That] puts pressure on consumers,” Mr Barange told journalists.

food insecurity

With more than 800 million people now going hungry and 2.4 billion people with severely limited access to adequate food, the challenge of feeding a growing population without depleting current resources is growing.

In this context, aquatic food systems are increasingly in the spotlight, due to their enormous potential to meet rising demand.

“The growth of fisheries and aquaculture is vital in our efforts to end hunger and malnutrition in the world, but further transformation is needed in the sector to meet the challenges,” says FAO Director General QU Dongyu.

“We need to transform agri-food systems to ensure that aquatic food is sustainably harvested, ensure livelihoods and protect aquatic habitats and biodiversity,” he added.


Significant growth in aquaculture has taken global fisheries and aquaculture production to an all-time high as aquatic foods make an increasingly critical contribution to food security and nutrition in the 21st century.

Speaking to the SDG Media Zone at the Lisbon conference, Peter Thomson, the UN Secretary-General’s Special Envoy for the Ocean, called aquaculture the “healthiest food for the world”, which has the “potential to protect our grandchildren and feed other generations to come, if we do it right”.

Aquaculture as a solution

In 2020, animal aquaculture production reached 87.5 million tons, six percent more than in 2018. In contrast, the volume of catches from the open sea decreased to 90.3 million tons, a decrease of four percent compared to the average for the previous three years. .

Growing demand is rapidly changing the fishing and aquaculture industry. Consumption is expected to increase by 15 percent to provide an average of 21.4 kg per capita by 2030, driven primarily by rising incomes and urbanization, changes in post-harvest practices and distribution, as well as nutritional trends aimed at better health and nutrition.

Of total aquatic food production is expected to reach 202 million tons by 2030mainly due to the continued growth of aquaculture, this figure is expected to reach 100 million tons for the first time in 2027 and 106 million tons in 2030.

“We need to make sure that we start looking at the species arriving in markets that may be different from the historical ones,” said Mr Barange, adding that if climate change adaptation is done properly, the per capita consumption of aquatic food of the population would continue to grow, helping to reduce pressure on food production systems on land.

People in fishing communities

“More than 58 million people are directly dependent on fishing and aquaculture: fishermen, fisherwomen and aquaculturists”, emphasized FAO expert Mr. barang.

Fisheries and aquaculture contribute to employment, trade and economic development.

According to the latest data, an estimated 58.5 million people were employed in the sector, of which only 21 percent were women.

Neighbors help each other pull a fishing net in Gentuma Raya, Indonesia.

© ADB/Eric Sales

Neighbors help each other pull a fishing net in Gentuma Raya, Indonesia.

It is estimated that approximately 600 million people depend in some way on fishing and aquaculture for their lives and livelihoods. With those numbers, the need to build resilience is clearly critical to equitable and sustainable development.

Margaret Nakato, coordinator at the Katosi Women Development Trust (KWDT) in Uganda, who is also participating in the conference, works with fishermen and fisherwomen on the ground.

“One of the problems is that the current protection regimes are contributing to the displacement and destruction of fishing communities from their territory,” the conference heard.

She called on member states to involve small fishing communities, saying that “any sustainability agenda must take this into account, as well as the social, cultural and economic components of fishing communities, to ensure that our measures are effective, but we also reap the equitable benefits.” share the resources”.

The need for transformation

The FAO says more needs to be done to feed the world’s growing population while improving the sustainability of stocks and fragile ecosystems and protecting long-term lives and livelihoods.

According to the FAO report, the sustainability of marine fish stocks remains a major concern as the percentage of sustainably fished stocks fell to 64.6 percent in 2019, down 1.2 percent from 2017.

The fishing port of Joal in Senegal.

© FAO/Sylvain Cherkaoui

The fishing port of Joal in Senegal.

There are encouraging signs, however, as sustainably fished stocks accounted for 82.5 percent of the total volume of landings in 2019 – a 3.8 percent increase since 2017. This seems to indicate that larger stocks are being managed more effectively.

Before leaving the podium, UN Secretary General’s Special Envoy Peter Thomson called for increased funding for SDG14, suggesting that funding should be channeled into alternatives.

“I think things are changing,” he said, emphasizing the need to fund the solutions being developed. “Action is about money, put your hand in the pocket and make it happen,” concluded Mr Thomson.

Until Friday, UN News will bring you daily coverage of the conference, as well as interviews, podcasts and features, which you can access here.

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