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For global food sourcing, the future could be blue

ETX Daily Up logo ETX Daily Up 24/9/2021 ETX Daily Up
In rapid expansion, "aquatic" food products could offer a means of driving down environmental footprints while fighting malnutrition. © EoNaYa / Getty Images In rapid expansion, "aquatic" food products could offer a means of driving down environmental footprints while fighting malnutrition.

According to a new study, increasing the share of "blue" food -- algae, seafood or shellfish -- in the world could help fight malnutrition, reduce the environmental footprint of the food system and provide livelihoods for communities.

In rapid expansion, "aquatic" food products -- like algae, shellfish and seafood -- could offer a means of driving down environmental footprints while fighting malnutrition. So suggest the findings of researchers from the University of California at Santa Barbara in the US, authors of a new study published in Nature. 

The researchers gathered data from approximately 100 studies conducted on a wide range of seafood species. The goal of this research was to explore the environmental sustainability of aquatic foods, the growth potential of small-scale producers, and the climate risks faced by aquatic food systems.

"Blue foods stack up really well overall and provide a great option for sustainable food," says Benjamin Halpern, a marine ecologist at UC Santa Barbara's Bren School of Environmental Science & Management, and study co-author. 

From an environmental point of view, seafood products such as tilapia (a fish farmed in Asia and South America and one of the world's most consumed), salmon, catfish and carp, have a footprint comparable to that of chicken, i.e., the meat with the lowest carbon impact. For smaller seafood products, such as sardines and anchovies, or mollusks (especially bivalves) and seaweed, the carbon impact is less than that of chicken, or all forms of meat produced from land animals.

The researchers stress that the regions where people are most dependent on aquatic food systems are generally those most threatened by climate change, and least equipped to respond and adapt to these risks. This is particularly the case in Africa, South and Southeast Asia, and developing small island states.

The study also estimates that more than 2,500 species or species groups of fish, shellfish, aquatic plants and algae are caught or cultivated for food worldwide, providing livelihoods and income for more than 100 million people, and feeding one billion people worldwide.

But to achieve these results, sustainable food systems must be well managed, and the oceans must be preserved, in particular by tackling intensive fishing and pollution, which threaten the reproductive capacity and survival of marine species . This is all the more important since global demand for so-called blue foods could double by 2050, the study estimates.

Léa Drouelle

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