The world is facing food security and nutritional challenges on an unprecedented scale. This is the opening salvo of an in-depth report published this month by the European Commission, called Sustainable Food: A recipe for Food Security and Environmental Protection.
The report highlights the greatest threats to food security and identifies potential routes toward a sustainable future. This will require knowledge and policy challenges along the way, but the Sustainable Seafood Coalition (SSC) has ten aims that are working towards several of these issues, including the reform of fisheries policy, altering consumer preferences through knowledge share and tackling food waste.
The report explains that capture fisheries are unlikely to be able to contribute to increased global demand for protein, as about 80% of global commercial fish populations are already fully exploited or over exploited. Although aquaculture may shoulder a part of this burden, the report says “there will be environmental consequences linked to energy use, pollution and feed requirements.” It urges an immediate increase in the sustainability of both wild fish stocks and aquaculture. The SSC’s voluntary code on environmentally responsible sourcing of seafood which is being created and signed by the members, aims to ensure consistency across the industry, allowing consumers to make more informed decisions about their fish and seafood purchases.
The report notes the global trend in dietary preference is moving away from cereals and grains and shifting towards animal products. Targeting both consumers and retailers to make more environmentally sustainable choices can have a direct impact on our fisheries, as well as influencing policymakers. The report suggests that words used by food firms such as “sustainable” often lack the clarity needed to make it meaningful. The SSC, however, is directly targeting this issue in the UK seafood market by working together to harmonise and define the language that members use for environmental claims in its voluntary labelling code.
Globally, 30 to 50% of food produced is wasted. The report calls for development of transport infrastructure in developing countries to better enable producers to get food to market. In wealthier nations however, retail and household sectors are of greater importance for preventing food waste. Tristam Stuart, a campaigner against food waste, has shown that nearly one billion people could be lifted out of malnourishment on less than a quarter of the food that is wasted in the US and Europe alone. Public awareness campaigns and targeting better management of waste throughout the supply chain would both have a positive impact on waste reduction. The report suggests that where there are unavoidable by-products from the food industry, these should be channelled into producing valuable alternative products, such as livestock feed. This is an aim supported by the SSC as an alternative to the common practice of using wild caught fish in fishmeal production.
The Sustainable Seafood Coalition is a growing group of supermarkets, restaurants, fishmongers, suppliers, processors and industry representatives working together towards a sustainable future for fish and seafood.