Fish and other aquatic foods are critical components of strategies to deliver healthy, sustainable and equitable food systems and are centrally important to food system decision-making. The 2021 United Nations (UN) Food Systems Summit (UNFSS) has been instrumental in building the international consensus that aquatic foods are centrally important to our food future. The UNFSS catalysed commitments, targets and coalitions to strive towards the 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) by 2030.
To mobilize action towards the SDGs, the UN Ocean Conference intends to accelerate action for SDG 14: Life Below Water, with the overarching theme of “Scaling up ocean action based on science and innovation for the implementation of Goal 14: Stocktaking, partnerships and solutions.”
Aquaculture’s vital role in healthy, sustainable diets
Aquaculture – the farming of aquatic animals and plants – is widely recognized as a vital contribution to a healthy, sustainable and resilient global food system. Globally, fish and other aquatic foods provide nearly 20% of the average per capita animal protein intake for more than 3.3 billion people and 10% for approximately 5.6 billion people. Aquatic food supply must expand to meet future demand, as 87 million tonnes of fish were produced in 2020 and 155 million tonnes of fish will be needed in 2050. Efforts to sustainably expand aquaculture, manage wild fisheries and reduce loss and waste will be essential to meet this demand.
Sustainable aquaculture can provide healthy and nutritious food for people and planet, improve economies, create employment (including for women and youth) and support a sustainable and balanced diet. Yet, continued improvements in aquaculture’s social and environmental performance are still needed and the full potential has not been realized in many parts of the world, Africa in particular. As a comparatively low-carbon food production system, sustainable aquaculture can contribute to the world’s response to climate change and can do so in ways that are socially responsible with minimal environmental impact.
Role of collaboration and industry leadership
Although aquaculture has been growing, innovating and improving in many parts of the world, there are many geographies requiring accelerated growth, improvements in social and environmental performance, and significant innovation and investment. In order to deliver on aquaculture’s growth potential, all stakeholders must take action and companies need to develop more effective collaboration. Business as usual will not deliver progress at the scale needed.
Recognizing the power of both a collaborative response and private sector leadership in delivering on aquaculture’s potential, Global Salmon Initiative and FUTUREFISH, with support from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, convened a roundtable of aquaculture industry leaders. The roundtable, hosted in Amsterdam, Netherlands on May 25, 2022, brought together chief executive officers (CEOs) and senior executives from 13 aquaculture companies, including producer, seed, feed, health and investor organizations representing a global perspective, with the aim of harnessing their expertise and ambition to accelerate industry-wide progress.
Those gathered at the roundtable reflected on what the world needs from aquaculture, the potential of collaboration, and the barriers and change levers to catalyze progress. Together, they developed a Call to Action, representing a new and overarching commitment to advance global aquaculture industry leadership. The aim of this Call to Action is to mobilize a sustainable future for purpose driven aquaculture, meaning one that provides nourishment in equitable and climate-resilient ways. The Call to Action serves as a contribution to the UN Ocean Conference and will help ensure a greater role for aquaculture in helping to achieve the SDGs by 2030.
A Call to Action
The Call to Action, ultimately agreed upon by executives from over 30 aquaculture companies and organizations, responds to the UN’s call for ocean and freshwater action and represents the priorities and commitments of select industry leaders. Together, they recognized:
- The world’s need for more high-quality, environmentally-responsible sources of protein,
- The world’s need to ensure food is produced in efficient and environmentally sound ways,
- The world’s need for more equitable social outcomes of aquaculture,
- That while aquaculture has been growing, innovating and improving,
- Business as usual will not deliver the scale of change needed.
Responding to such challenges, the group’s vision is to drive towards full delivery on the potential of aquaculture by producing more nutritious and sustainable food. Doing so will improve global food security, and achieve greater social and economic benefits. The leaders prioritized eight action areas:
Learning and Sharing Experiences
- Establish a learning and acceleration hub and related database to collect and encourage the wider use of proven models to scale sustainable aquaculture production, such as pre-competitive collaboration platforms, innovative financing systems and open platform technology sharing
- Aggregate business case examples for breaking the ‘commodity trap’ to help support producers investing in sustainable products and inform market-specific regional opportunities, accounting for distinct cultures and business climates
Supporting Development of Future Regulation and Infrastructure
- Develop a comprehensive white paper that describes the business case for aquaculture’s role in supporting healthy, sustainable diets and communities, and provides a framework for evolving and forward-looking regulatory regimes, needed infrastructure and other opportunity areas
- Support evolution of forward-looking aquaculture regulatory systems to encourage environmentally- and socially-sustainable growth for the sector
- Expand inclusive, sustainable financing opportunities to support growth – encouraging the flow of finance into sustainable aquaculture to promote food and nutrition staples for smallholders, women and youth at scale
Supporting Technology Adoption and Innovation
- Assess opportunities for pre-competitive collaborations in aquatic genetic resources, considering better aquatic animal nutrition, genetic improvement programs, regional focus and diversification
- Create global and regional hubs and mechanisms for technology transfer on effective innovations and best practices to accelerate dispersion at scale, including underserved regions such as Africa
Increasing Transparent Communication to all Stakeholders
- Communicate the role of aquaculture in supporting nutritious, resilient food systems more effectively by providing transparency to all stakeholders on the sector’s ongoing efforts to improve and deliver a responsible and healthy source of food
The aquaculture leaders who contributed to this Call to Action have committed to these action areas. In doing so, they commit to driving the sector’s sustainability forward at speed and scale. They recognize the need to encourage wider participation, particularly from underserved regions, and will continue to reach out and engage. A global leadership group of select executives will also convene to monitor progress and take necessary actions to ensure that change happens on the ground. We call on partners to join and collaborate with the aquaculture industry in achieving this vision.
We invite others from private sector to join us in this Call to Action. Email Sophie Ryan (email@example.com) and Aliesha Piggott (firstname.lastname@example.org) to get involved.
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