Efforts to reduce poverty and malnutrition barely scratch the surface of a diverse aquatic food group offering multiple micronutrients.
Water, the world’s most precious resource, is worth at least double in the global south for its role in preventing hunger as well as thirst.
While many fish and other aquatic foods are fast becoming a delicacy in the global north, they remain the underappreciated mainstay of diets, cuisines and economies in the southern hemisphere from Bangladesh and Cambodia to Chile and Nigeria.
Efforts to reduce poverty and malnutrition, which afflicts almost 2.5 billion people worldwide, have barely scratched the surface of the enormously diverse aquatic food group that offers multiple micronutrients vital for human development and health, and multiple income opportunities from their production, supply and consumption.
Until governments and public authorities devote more investment and resources towards research to sustainably develop the aquatic foods sector, the world will continue to allow vital nutrients to slip through the hands of the malnourished, missing a golden opportunity to transform food systems for the poorest.
For decades, food systems have been primarily focused on land-based production, and food aid has most commonly taken the form of staple grains like rice and maize.
But there are signs this is finally starting to change, a shift led by the World Food Prize Foundation, which this year made me only the second aquatic foods researcher to be named a World Food Prize Laureate and the first since 2005.
The world is beginning to wake up to the unmatched potential of aquatic foods to improve nutrition at scale. For example, increasing the supply of marine and freshwater foods by eight per cent could prevent 166 million cases of micronutrient deficiencies by 2030, with mussels offering 76 times more vitamin B12 and carps nine times more calcium than chicken.
To fully unlock these benefits, governments and public authorities must start by linking aquatic foods to nutrition and public health policies. It was only in April this year that UN Nutrition published its first discussion paper on aquatic foods but these insights must now be developed and incorporated in public policy. Telegraph