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Aquatic foods crucial for sustainable, nutritious and equitable food

Published: 08 June 2023

To elevate the profile of aquatic food systems, and the millions of small-scale actors involved in these systems supporting healthy people and planet, researchers at SLU and WorldFish collaborated to produce a synthesis report.

Global nutrition needs are increasing and aquatic foods have recently been identified as crucial in addressing many of the world’s urgent challenges, including hunger and malnutrition. Fish, shellfish and aquatic plants are fundamental, essential and indispensable foods eaten by people around the world as part of healthy diets, cultural heritage and culinary tradition. Small-scale artisanal fisher and fish farmers produce a large portion of this food. As a call for joining action on these issues, the United Nations declared 2022, the “International Year of Artisanal Fisheries and Aquaculture” (IYAFA).

As part of this, SLU Aqua has produced a synthesis report on the subject, together with SLU Aquculture, SLU Global and WorldFish. The report, Securing sustainable access to aquatic foods, highlights the importance of aquatic foods as a source of protein, micronutrients and income, its potential to meet increasing food demands, as well as the challenges in aquatic food production and harvesting. It also provides an overview of management initiatives and innovative solutions for secured sustainable access to aquatic foods in the future.

– By incorporating different aspects of aquatic foods, this synthesis aims to inspire and inform the reader about the importance of these systems, and means for a sustainable way forward, says Charlotte Berkström, researcher at SLU Aqua, and one of the authors.

Bullet points from the report

  • Aquatic foods provide micronutrient-rich foods for 3.3 billion people and support the livelihoods of more than 800 million people.

  • Small-scale fisheries and aquaculture, in particular, play a key role in supporting the diversity and nutritional benefits of aquatic foods. However, the capture and production of aquatic foods is not always sustainable, and access to these foods may be unequal.

  • At the water-land nexus, new ways of producing aquatic foods hold the potential to reduce the climate footprint in the food system.

  • The governance of and investment in aquatic food systems need to aim to preserve, support and improve aquatic species diversity and to improve access to this highly nutritious food. This work needs to include diverse stakeholders, such as fishers, fish farmers, community agencies, policy makers and researchers, and be firmly established in both the latest research and in a local/regional context - ecologically and socially.

World Oceans Day

This article is published on the occasion of World Oceans Day, which is celebrated on 8 June every year.

Oceans Day was first declared in 1992 in Rio de Janeiro at the Global Forum, a parallel event at the United Nations Conference on Environment and Development . #WorldOceansDay


Charlotte Berkström, Researcher
Department of Aquatic Resources, Institute of Coastal Research, SLU, +46 10 478 41 65