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Marine Systems, Food Security, and Future Earth


Fulton, EA and Plaganyi, E and Cheung, W and Blanchard, J and Watson, R, Marine Systems, Food Security, and Future Earth, Global Change and Future Earth: The Geoscience Perspective, Cambridge University Press, T Beer, J Li, K Alverson (ed), United Kingdom, pp. 296-310. ISBN 9781107171596 (2018) [Research Book Chapter]

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Copyright 2018 Cambridge University Press

DOI: doi:10.1017/9781316761489.029


Seafood, wild caught and farmed, has been a staple of human diets for millennia. Dietary (isotope) and archaeological evidence indicates fish were a significant part of the diet of people in Africa and Eurasia in the Mid- Palaeolithic (Hu et al., 2009), with the earliest South African middens more than 150,000 years old. Tunas and other such pelagic fish have been exploited for at least forty-two thousand years (O’Connor et al., 2011) and fish hooks carved from Trochus shell have been found from Timor to Okinawa, indicating the widespread use of such fishing gear by 23000 BP (Fujita et al., 2016). Written evidence of the importance of seafood to humanity dates to 4000 BC in Egypt (Chimits, 1957), with examples of texts on fishing methods and management found in all major ancient human cultures (Radcliffe, 1921; Costa-Pierce 2002). This love of seafood has not dwindled through time and today the total annual global fish production stands at more than 167 million tonnes of fish, with 146.3 million tonnes for human consumption and more than half of that from aquaculture (FAO, 2016). It is a major source of dietary protein, with more than 3 billion people dependent upon it. Fish has been the major source of animal protein for human consumption since 1960 and this per capita consumption is growing globally, trebling in the last fifty years (Béné et al., 2015). The affluent industrialised nations now consume at least 26.8 kg per capita annually; consumption is slightly lower in developing nations (at 20 kg per capita annually) and even the citizens of the poorest and food-deficit nations have doubled their consumption of seafood over the last thirty years, now consuming 7.6 kg per capita annually (FAO, 2016). This growth in consumption has outpaced that of all other livestock sectors (including chicken, pork and beef ) (Béné et al., 2015). Challenges to land-based production such as shortages of water for irrigation (Elliot et al., 2014), global warming and loss of fertile soils (Rosenzweig et al., 2014) will all potentially increase the role of seafood in food security. The dependence of humanity on seafood goes far beyond simple protein consumption. Fish have a reputation as a source of long-chain n-3 (or omega-3) polyunsaturated fatty acids, but they are also a crucial source of readily accessible (bioavailable) micronutrients – such as selenium, zinc, iron, calcium, iodine and vitamins A, B and D (FAO, 2016; Golden et al., 2016). A reduction in the availability of seafood could see 19% of the global population at risk of increased perinatal, child and maternal mortality; growth and cognitive retardation; reduced immune function and other conditions associated with malnutrition (Golden et al., 2016). Many of these countries are situated in equatorial South East Asia, Africa and Latin America. There is little capacity to look to other food sources in these countries, as poverty means they have a limited capacity to switch to alternative dietary sources. A livelihood feedback effect entrenches this dependence as the same countries also have a heavy reliance on fisheries as sources of employment and are economically sensitive to shifts in seafood production (Allison et al., 2009).

Item Details

Item Type:Research Book Chapter
Keywords:food security, global fisheries, marine ecosystems
Research Division:Agricultural, Veterinary and Food Sciences
Research Group:Fisheries sciences
Research Field:Aquaculture and fisheries stock assessment
Objective Division:Environmental Policy, Climate Change and Natural Hazards
Objective Group:Adaptation to climate change
Objective Field:Social impacts of climate change and variability
UTAS Author:Blanchard, J (Dr Julia Blanchard)
UTAS Author:Watson, R (Professor Reginald Watson)
ID Code:128372
Year Published:2018
Funding Support:Australian Research Council (DP140101377)
Deposited By:Fisheries and Aquaculture
Deposited On:2018-09-15
Last Modified:2019-02-26
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