An ocean of possibilities

During the 2014 Global Oceans Action Summit, the Dutch Minister for Agriculture Sharon Dijksma stated that the three biggest threats to our oceans are overfishing, pollution and changes to the living environment. All these problems are symptoms of more fundamental developments: an increasing population, greater prosperity and a greater demand for animal proteins. LEI is making a direct contribution to solving these issues by working on improving fishery management as well as an indirect contribution by working on improving the production of fish and seaweed and increasing its sustainability.

The management of European fish stocks is continuously improving. LEI is helping this development by providing a thorough understanding of commercial fishing and its economic returns. In addition, LEI develops models and provides policy advice for making efficient and targeted improvements to the sustainability of commercial fishing in terms of the ecology, the economy and society. One example of this research is the EU project Socioec , in which models and methods are developed enabling the motives of commercial fishers to be used to improve fish stock management. 

Together with other research institutes within Wageningen UR, LEI utilises Dutch knowledge and expertise to improve the entire global fishing chain – from suppliers of fishing gear and fish feed to the supermarkets – and increase its sustainability. With the help of market intelligence, the possibilities for making technological and economic improvements to the production of both plant-based and animal-based food are made clearer. LEI develops business models, carries out impact evaluations and analyses costs and benefits in order to arrive at a selection of sustainable production systems. For instance, LEI is involved in FAFI (Fisheries and Aquaculture for Food Security in Indonesia), a project with the aim of making more fish and fish products available to the Indonesian market. The ECOBAS project combines sustainable coast protection and aquatic food production by creating oyster reefs. The FoodTechAfrica project combines the efforts of Dutch and African agro-food companies, knowledge institutes and governments in order to arrive at a fully integrated aquaculture chain in order to increase food security in East Africa.

How can we use fish stocks and farmed fish sustainably so as to meet the growing demand for animal proteins? To what extent is it important to encourage the current trend in the demand for animal proteins (as people become more prosperous, they eat more meat) to grow in a direction which is based more on plant-based proteins? What are the consequences of policy on the ability of our ecosystem to support us? These are issues which LEI is examining and will continue to examine in the near future. The answers to these important questions will help us to ensure that people around the world have enough affordable, high-quality, sustainable food.