The Future of Food from the Sea

The Future of Food from the Sea examines the future potential of food production from the ocean. The report believes the ocean could provide six times more food than it does today, but only if we manage our resources properly.

Fish accounts for about 20 percent of animal protein and 6.7 percent of all protein consumed by humans globally. As the world´s population will continue to grow and the average incomes rise, the demand for ocean-derived food will continue to increase. According to the Expert Group of the High Level Panel for a Sustainable Ocean Economy, sound ocean management would enable the world’s oceans to provide six times more food than they do today. This represents more than two-thirds of the edible meat that the FAO estimates will be needed to feed the future global population. The sea could hence play a unique role in ensuring access to adequate and nutritious food, and help achieving SDG 2: zero hunger. 

The main barriers to increasing food production from the ocean are overfishing, climate change, environmental variability, habitat degradation and pollution. The potential for increased production and consumption of food from the sea will thus depend on policy, technological development. physical factors (such as ocean warming) and institutions (such as property rights and trade).

Unfed mariculture has the greatest potential for growth

Increased production of food from the oceans can be achieved with a smaller environmental footprint. The greatest potential for increased sustainable food production from the oceans is in the aquaculture sector, in particular the production ofliving marine resources that do not need direct feeding, such as seaweed and bivalves. This could also contribute to better water quality, create natural habitats for wild fisheries, and improve coastal environments. The farming of fish and crustaceans that are currently fed with fishmeal and fish oil could also make a significant contribution to future protein supply, but the industry must find alternative sources of feed and improve farming systems in order to reduce the environmental impact to a minimum.

Sustainable fish management can increase catches by 20 percent

According to the report, improved management and judicious conservation of exploited wild fisheries could increase catches to 98 mmt, which is 20 percent more fish catch than we currently obtain and over 40 percent more than projected future catch under current fishing pressure. In order to achieve this, we must reduce overfishing, use catches more efficiently and increase the production from underfished resources.

The Future of Food from the Seais the first in a series of 16 expert reports commissioned by the High-level Panel for a Sustainable Ocean Economy. The Panel is made up of 14 heads of state and government, and is chaired by Norwegian Prime Minister Erna Solberg and the President of Palau. 

By Anna Lygre Solvang