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New Campaign Presents Policy Opportunities for Sustainable Aquatic Food Systems

The Blue Food Assessment (BFA) recently launched a campaign called Blue Foods: Better Choices to promote sustainable blue food production policies in lead-up to the U.N. Ocean Conference.

An initiative of the Stockholm Resilience Centre at Stockholm University, Stanford University’s Center for Ocean Solutions and Center on Food Security and the Environment, and EAT, the BFA brings together 100 scientists from more than 25 organizations around the world. The BFA defines blue foods as foods derived from over 2,500 species of aquatic animals, plants, or algae that are caught or cultivated in freshwater and marine environments.

The 2022 U.N. Ocean Conference presents an opportunity for the BFA to share the intersectional significance of blue foods in the food system. Jim Leape, Co-director of Stanford’s Center for Ocean Solutions, and member of the core team for the BFA, says he hopes that through the campaign, “policy makers, civil society leaders, and private sector leaders will have a new and broader understanding of the importance of blue foods and what is needed to ensure vibrant blue food production in the future.”

Blue Foods: Better Choices will run on Twitter until July 1, 2022, when the U.N. Ocean Conference concludes. The BFA is leading the campaign with support from impact partners in the ocean conservation and science community.

Leape notes that promoting healthy marine ecosystems can address many of the U.N. Sustainable Development Goals. Healthy marine ecosystems are “a vital part of meeting the goals for nutrition, food security, livelihoods, and justice” across the broader food system, he says.

Launched in 2019, the BFA sought to bring blue foods to the forefront of policy discussions at the 2021 United Nations Food Systems Summit. In collaboration with WorldFish, the Environmental Defense Fund, World Wildlife Fund, the World Economic Forum, and others, the BFA was successful in raising awareness about the importance of blue foods in policy discussions.

Research published by the BFA scientists finds that small-scale fisheries provide livelihoods for more than 800 million people worldwide, playing a crucial role in food and nutrition security. As climate change and other pervasive threats impact small-scale aquaculture, the BFA advocates for policy dialogue that addresses the complexities of marine ecosystems.

Leape says that many opportunities in the blue food sector are often overlooked. In the Western Hemisphere, for example, people tend to eat a narrow selection of blue foods, namely salmon, tuna, and shrimp. “It’s a relative handful of blue foods that are front of mind for us and that tend to be on our plates,” he explains.

Within the 2,500 aquatic species, are, Leape tells Food Tank, “huge opportunities to achieve goals for better nutrition and healthier diets that, at the same time, meet goals for a more sustainable food system.”

Leape notes that Bangladeshi carp farmers are one example of how blue foods promote healthier diets. Along with silver carp, which is sold commercially in the marketplace, Bangladeshi farmers also raise mola, a small indigenous fish variety. “Mola is a tiny part of the diet in Bangladesh, but it accounts for more than 90 percent of Vitamin A in their diets nationwide.” Unlike carp and other large, commercially farmed fish, Bangladeshis eat mola whole, which provides higher nutritional benefits, according to WorldFish.

Leape hopes Blue Foods: Better Choices will urge policymakers to “confront the challenges that lay ahead” by recognizing the opportunities that exist in blue food systems. “Our challenge is not just to improve the performance of existing systems,” Leape tells Food Tank, “but, at the same time, to identify and develop systems that are intrinsically healthier and more sustainable.”

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