Although the ocean has been providing humanity food and nutrition for thousands of years, it holds the potential to play a much bigger role in the global food system. Targeted investments in ocean science and technology could generate about US$3 trillion (1) from the ocean economy and multiply six-fold the amount of seafood available by 2030 (2). At the same time, climate change, overfishing, pollution and habitat degradation threaten the ecosystem services provided by the ocean, including its productive capacity. With an increase of about 2 billion people expected over the next 30 years, how do we ensure the ocean is managed sustainably and equitably so it continues to feed the world population?
“Blue Foods: Science for a Sustainable Future” brought together diverse experts from every corner of the planet to discuss the challenges and explore how the solution-oriented nature of the UN Decade of Ocean Science for Sustainable Development (2021-2030), the “Ocean Decade”, can help generate knowledge based solutions which optimize the role of the ocean in sustainably feeding the world’s population.
“Aquatic systems have great potential to reduce hunger and poverty. But to achieve this, we need a blue transformation to improve how we manage fisheries, intensify aquaculture and upgrade and innovate fish value chains. The Ocean Decade can help create the conditions for this transformation and address barriers and gaps in infrastructure as well as institutional and scientific management capacity.” Dr Manuel Barange, Director, Fisheries Division, Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations
“It is important that science for and of aquatic foods adopt a holistic food system lens to ensure benefits flow where they are needed most and promote coordination between sectors to ensure a more equitable access and reduce social inequities.” Dr Christina Hicks, Professor, Lancaster University
It was a dynamic and interactive session that brought together more than 250 participants from 52 countries. It was agreed that some of the greatest challenges facing sustainable production and consumption of aquatic foods are pollution and habitat degradation, climate change and population growth. And that strengthening international scientific cooperation, especially in terms of capacity building, education and training, as well as improving fisheries management and data collection systems are key to meeting these challenges.
“We will only be able to produce more food from the ocean if we have scientists with relevant knowledge and capacity, more targeted school curricula, as well as reliable and affordable technologies for small-scale fishers so they can turn to aquaculture as a viable option to produce food.” Dr Flower Msuya, Chairperson and Facilitator, Zanzibar Seaweed Cluster Initiative
“Capacity-building is essential in developing countries where scientific expertise is lacking. For the last 45 years, the EAF-Nansen Programme has supported the development of scientific and fisheries management capacities in developing countries to improve food and nutrition security through sustainable fisheries. More programmes and initiatives like this are needed to fulfill the ambitions of the Ocean Decade.” Ms Graça D’Almeida, Director of Resource Management, Ministry of Fisheries and Marine Resources, Namibia
It was highlighted that the Ocean Decade could help unleash the power of aquatic foods in a variety of ways. Foremost, because it offers a platform to strengthen and foster partnerships between all ocean actors beyond the scientific community, including the young and talented individuals who are just now starting to engage with Ocean Sciences and who will be the future Ocean leaders. Bringing together generators and users of science for the co-design and co-delivery of innovative solutions will leverage the potential of fisheries and aquaculture for food security and nutrition, economic growth, job creation and enabling women’s empowerment.
“Most aquatic foods are produced by small scale producers who are often marginalized and overlooked. The Ocean Decade can give these actors a voice and encourage solution providers to reach out and customize emerging technologies to meet the needs of these users.” Ms Han Han, Founder and Executive Director, China Blue Sustainability Institute
Other solutions explored included improved data collection systems, innovative compliance and enforcement methods sensitive to the needs and limitations of small-scale fishers and upgrading and innovating fish value chains so that valuable resources are not wasted, e.g., fish meal created from fish trimmings. Participants further stressed the importance of integrating the valuable knowledge which local and indigenous communities can share, those who are often at the greatest risk and stand to lose the most if the world does not focus efforts on sustainable production and equitable distribution and availability of aquatic foods.
“There are many different actors on the sea. We have so much to learn from and share with each other. The Ocean Decade offers many opportunities to bring all ocean actors together to design the best solutions through collective action.” Dr Shakuntala Haraksingh Thilsted, Global Lead, Nutrition and Public Health, WorldFish
Are you ready to join this global movement and help co-create solutions which optimize the role of the ocean in sustainably feeding the world’s population? If yes, find out here how! https://oceandecade.com/
Meet the speakers and watch the event here: BlueFoods: Science for a Sustainable Future
 OECD. 2016. The OceanEconomy in 2030. OECD Publishing, Paris.
 Stuchtey, M., A. Vincent, A. Merkl, M. Bucheret al. 2020. “Ocean Solutions That Benefit People, Nature and the Economy.”Washington, DC: World Resources Institute. www.oceanpanel.org/ocean-solutions.