The oceans could hold the key to future food security

With better ocean management, it could be possible to harvest and produce more than six times more food from the world’s oceans that we do today, according to a new report.

The report by the group of experts under the High-level Panel for a Sustainable Ocean Economy has found that there is huge potential for increasing food production from the oceans.

‘I was pleased to read in the report that sound management would enable the oceans to provide six times more food than they do today. This would be equivalent to more than two-thirds of the world population’s protein needs by 2050,’ said Prime Minister Erna Solberg.

The report is the first in a series of 16 expert reports commissioned by the High-level Panel for a Sustainable Ocean Economy, which will be presented in the period leading up to the UN Ocean Conference in June 2020. The reports provide scientific input to the High-level Panel’s work, and the experts are responsible for their content.

‘I hope this report and the Panel’s broader work will increase awareness of the importance of sustainable management for ensuring enough food for the growing world population. I also hope that it will enhance understanding at the international level of the importance of sound management systems and of regional and international cooperation,’ said Minister of Fisheries and Seafood Harald T. Nesvik.

The High-level Panel on a Sustainable Ocean Economy is made up of 14 heads of state and government, and is chaired by Prime Minister Erna Solberg and the President of Palau. The objective is to improve the environmental status of the oceans and at the same time ensure that they can help us reach the UN Sustainable Development Goals on ending hunger, and on energy and decent work for all.

‘Today, Norway is at the top of the league table when it comes to sustainable fisheries management, but we have learnt the hard way. It is not that long since Norway’s fish stocks were in an extremely poor condition. We had problems with unregulated fishing and other fisheries crime. In response to this, we developed systems based on research and knowledge that have made Norway one of the world’s largest exporters of seafood today. The experience we have gained means that we can make a valuable contribution internationally,’ said Mr Nesvik.

The report was presented today at the International Symposium on Fisheries Sustainability in Rome. Minister of Fisheries and Seafood Harald T. Nesvik represented the Norwegian Government at the symposium.

The report’s conclusions include:

  • Increased production of food from the oceans can be achieved with a smaller environmental footprint that would be the case with other sources of food.
  • Better ocean and fisheries management globally could lead to a 20 % increase in catches compared with the level today, and an increase of up to 40  % compared with current estimates of future catches.
  • The greatest potential for increased sustainable food production from the oceans is in the aquaculture sector:
    • Increased production of living marine resources that do not require direct feeding, for example seaweed and mussels, could increase the global food supply and at the same time improve water quality, create natural habitats for fish stocks and improve coastal environments.
    • The farming of fish and crustaceans that are currently fed with fishmeal and fish oil could also make a significant contribution to future food production, as long as this sector finds alternative sources of feed and the environmental impact is reduced to a minimum.