In-depth summary of inputs, 1st meeting – Global Action Network
The 1st meeting, “Form Healthy Waters to Healthy People”, offered an opportunity to explain key features of the Global Action Network on Sustainable Food from the Oceans and Inland Waters for Food Security and Nutrition, and pointed out what needs to be done to achieve greater understanding of the importance of seafood in combating hunger and malnutrition.
During the high-level session, the crucial role of clean oceans, sustainable fisheries and aquaculture, and the importance of fish and other aquatic food in meeting global nutrition challenges, was repeatedly emphasized. High priority needs to be given to aquatic food to improve global food and nutrition security. This food source must be featured in the discussion of food and nutrition policies. Relevant discussions of strategies, policies and programs are needed, as well as cooperation between people, governments and businesses to ensure healthy and nutritious diets for everyone. Aquatic products contribute only to food and nutrition security as long as eaten as a part of a healthy diet. Therefore, there is a need to take a holistic food chain approach from healthy oceans to healthy people, and actions must be based on knowledge.
Emphasis should also be placed on creating a demand for the right type of food. The motivation of people for involving in sustainable production, sustainable consumption and sustainable ways of living will generate more capacity for going in this direction. This demand needs to be created, and health argument can here play the most important role. Nutrition and environment are closely connected and without stimulating people to live sustainably, future food and nutrition demand will never be met.
This Global Action Network can help accelerate efforts (focus and align thoughts) to reduce hunger and all forms of malnutrition, and additionally support countries to increase the political interest and understanding of the important role of fish and fish products for nutritious diets, as well as helping countries to share their best practices.
The continuation of the high-level session was a thematic session that presented the scientific background for the advice form the Committee on World Food Security (CFS), and highlighted issues and actions related to different elements of food security (sufficient, safe, nutritious, dietary needs, food preferences and leaving no one behind). Fish should originate from sustainable fisheries and aquaculture. During this session, possible pathways toward sustainable fisheries and aquaculture was outlined and called for improving the governance of the fisheries and aquaculture. This session also highlighted the importance of strengthening the link between food security and nutrition communities, fisheries and aquaculture community. The political, operational and scientific level should work together to reach common goals.
It was noticed that rising fish consumption causes high pressure for capture fisheries (overfishing, fully fishing) and increases the problem with fish waste. A high amount of the catch does not end up in our consumption chain because of post-harvesting losses, discard, by-catch or other non-consumption uses of fish. Focus should be mainly on the small pelagic fishes where the losses are largest. Essential are investments on small-scale fisheries in terms of technology, finance and resource management, and research for processing perishable fish into more prolonged food to reduce food waste.
Important is also to remember that healthy and safe food can only come from healthy waters. All contaminants that are dumped into the water both from personal and industrial levels are accumulated in the food web and end up on our plate causing foodborne illnesses. Too many people are not in a position to have a healthy diet. A key to solve any issues associated with safe aquatic food is understanding the aquatic food web and the connection between environment, food production system and human health, and recognize the mechanism of foodborne illness. To avoid polluting waters we must establish standards for marine- and inland water qualities, and monitoring programs for all water bodies, as well as enforce regulatory standards for water quality.
The subject of fish as an under-recognized and undervalued source of high quality proteins, essential vitamins and minerals that is a huge challenge for the world, was one of the topics presented during this session. It was stated that awareness of the role of this food source must be increased, as well as production and consumption of sustainable and healthy aquatic food. To do this it is important to generate data on nutrients in both fresh and prepared fish because conservation, storage, and preparation may influence on both nutrient content and food safety aspects. Presently, there is little documentation on the nutritional composition in most wild species. Additionally, most of the nutrient values are estimated (inadequate), thus, for assessing nutrient intake, relevant, reliable and up-to-date food composition data are very important. Data should be open access in data bases that are regularly updated and maintained.
The importance of small fish as an irreplaceable source of highly bioavailable micronutrients was highlighted. Consumption of small fish can play a unique role in providing healthy nutrients in the world where six of the eleven risk factors for global burden of disease are diet related. Additionally, cognitive development and growth can be improved by increasing fish consumption in the first 1000 days of life. Investments must focus on policies and strategies to increase the access to and intake of micronutrient rich species.
The main challenges for Brazilian fish consumption, are poor quality of fish, high fish prices, the lack of habits in eating fish, and the fact that fish has very low practicality. Governmental initiatives could play a vital role in promoting fish consumption in countries. Campaigns aimed to primary school, to show how to handle and cook seafood that make children more familiar with fish could be also crucial.
Leaving no one behind
To make fish and aquatic food an important component in global-, regional-, and national policies, as well as investment discussions, it is important to Learn, Link and Leverage. We must Learn from the past as we transition from green to blue revolution. Nutrition sensitivity must be a core objective in policy/investment decision on advancing sustainable food from the oceans and inland waters to feed a hungry planet. Link – in order to meet global human capital targets (malnutrition, hunger), new aquatic food based solutions require important links to correct demand-supply failures. Leverage – the science and evidence for climate smart and nutritious aquatic food based solutions is buried in the literature and not reaching decision-makers. This needs to change. New and more agile approaches can reduce impediments to leveraging collaborative partnerships, the evidence-based solutions they produce, and scaling them. The Global Action network for Sustainable Food from the Oceans and Inland Waters for Food Security and Nutrition has the potential to leverage partners, finance and results.
The last part of the meeting was the Networking Session with inputs from experienced networkers and from the perspective of other stakeholders on how to contribute towards common goals.
Networking for better nutrition
The Danish Whole Grain Partnership was presented as an example of successful actions. An agreement between authorities, businesses, and civil organizations, to rise the intake of whole grains in Danish meals gave excellent results. This approach could also be implemented in promoting consumption of sustainable food from oceans and inland waters. Changes are possible but we need to offer a menu, not a recipe. The Nordic way starts from the agreements on the facts (NNR) and inclusiveness in partnership building. This is a foundation for regional policymaking with strong support and long life, which creates opportunities to jointly create more robust evidence and solutions. At the end, such approach leads to successful policies and a stronger position at the global level.
Towards common goals
Food from the oceans is critical for the future food security and there are huge knowledge gaps for terrestrial and marine interfaces that have to be filled. This require multi-sectoral approaches (science, policy, business) connecting the dots across disciplines, scales up actions based on science, and link with existing initiatives. A collective and collaborative stewardship approach is needed for ocean. EAT can help the network through the science synthesize, unlocking cross-sectoral funding, link to Food System Dialogues and rapid action demonstration. EAT and FAO leads the action track on food from the ocean under Friends of Ocean Action.
Every participant could play a role, as both knowledge holder and knowledge recipient, and actively engage in a provoking and constructive discussion to identify solutions to the pre-determined challenges, and to determinate the future orientations of the network actions. A holistic approach is needed to solve all aspects of environmental issues, food losses and nutrition through the value chain. The importance of connecting various policies (agriculture /marine/nutrition) was addressed, as well as adapting food systems which may lead to a healthy diet and improved nutrition for all. It is important to include science into policy and investments decisions because scaling up existing solutions is not enough. Increasing the awareness of seafood as an optimal way to promote good nutrition could be facilitated by including fish into country’s food based dietary guidelines.
Suggestions for Network actions:
- Organize meetings connecting with other meetings (CODEX, CFS)
- Connect to other existing networks (e.g. Global Network for Action on Blue Growth and Food security)
- Look for interested parties (FAO, WHO, IFAD, Wold Bank, WorldFish) who would benefit from the collaboration and interaction through the network
- Link different SDG’s together in aquaculture and fisheries context (CFS Hight Level Report 2014) and contribute to the International Year of Artisanal Fisheries and Aquaculture in 2022
- Make commitment with country leadership and act domestically and internationally
- Define membership and governance for the Action Network
- Develop webpage to share information about the network actions and to present or announce relevant actions and events by the network members
- Unite under the common logo, developed for the network that make the network more visible and easier to recognize