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Get ready for a blue food revolution with the global launch of the Blue Food Assessment

Published on
September 15, 2021

The Blue Food Assessment (BFA), a collaboration of 100 scientists around from around the world, finds fish, shellfish and algae offer untapped potential for global development if the right policies and investments are put in place. Simon Bush, professor of Environmental Policy at Wageningen University, is one of the scientific leads contributing to the global launch on September 16.

How are blue foods vital?

An unprecedented review of the aquatic foods sector has uncovered how fisheries and aquaculture can play a greater role in delivering healthy diets and more sustainable, equitable and resilient food systems around the world.

Five peer-reviewed papers highlight the opportunities to leverage the vast diversity of aquatic, or “blue”, foods in the coming decades to address malnutrition, lower the environmental footprint of the food system, and provide livelihoods. These five papers are the first in a series produced by the Blue Food Assessment (BFA), a group of more than 100 leading researchers led by Stanford University’s Center for Ocean Solutions & Center on Food Security and the Environment, the Stockholm Resilience Centre at Stockholm University, Wageningen University & Research, and EAT.

Read the new publications

“The Blue Food Assessment provides a comprehensive scientific overview of the contribution that aquatic foods, from oceans, seas, rivers and lakes, make to sustainable food systems around the world. We hope that the full collection of papers can influence decision makers to include blue foods in their policies and actions moving forward,” said Simon Bush, BFA scientific lead and professor at the Environmental Policy group of Wageningen University & Research. Simon co-authors and leads in the following papers from the BFA series published on September 15 in Nature Communications and Nature Food:

Blue Food Demand Across Geographic and Temporal Scales (15 Sept 2021), published in Nature Communications

Read in Nature Communications

Harnessing the diversity of small-scale actors is key to the future of aquatic food systems (15 Sept 2021), published in Nature Food

Read in Nature Food

Below are three more papers just published as a part of the Blue Food Assessment initiative:

The collection of all five of the newly published papers can be accessed here.

What does the research say?

The research projects that global demand for blue foods will roughly double by 2050, and will be met primarily through increased aquaculture production rather than by capture fisheries.

Investing in innovation and improving fisheries management could increase consumption even more and have profound effects on malnutrition. For instance, a “high growth” modelling scenario showed that increasing supply by 15.5 million tons (8%), causing a drop in prices, would reduce cases of nutrient deficiencies by 166 million, especially among low-income populations. 

Blue foods were found to rank more highly than terrestrial animal-source foods in terms of their nutritional benefits and potential for sustainability gains.

Many blue food species are rich in important nutrients. Compared to chicken, trout has approximately 19 times more omega-3 fatty acids; oysters and mussels have 76 times more vitamin B-12 and five times more iron; and carps have nine times more calcium.

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The nutritional benefits of blue foods are especially important for women, who were found to benefit more than men from increased consumption in nearly three times the number of countries studied.

On average, the major species produced in aquaculture, such as tilapia, salmon, catfish and carp, were found to have environmental footprints comparable to chicken, the lowest-impact terrestrial meat. Small pelagic species like sardines and anchovies, bivalves and seaweeds all already offer lower stressors than chicken. 

Further investments to improve the sector’s efficiency and reduce its environmental footprint can have sector-wide benefits, including for less commonly raised species like European bass, weakfish, flatfish, sea breams and milkfish.

The research found that blue food systems facing the highest risk from climate change are also typically located in those regions where people rely on them most and where they are least equipped to responfd and adapt to climate hazards. 

See you at the BFA's global launch

Learn more about the BFA and explore the diversity and important role of blue foods in a shift towards healthy and sustainable food systems. Join the digitally broadcast global launch on September 16 at 3-4PM CEST and register for the event here.

Image credits to Rachel Martin and Tommaso Cantelli from Unsplash