New Paper Underlines Importance of Fish Inclusion in National Policies

Lucy Towers
26 May 2016, at 1:00am

GLOBAL - A new paper published in the peer-reviewed Food Policy journal recommends that the nutritional importance of fish, especially in resource-poor populations which rely heavily on cereal based-diets, needs to be taken into account in the development of national policies.

Improving fisheries and aquaculture with the adoption of nutrition-sensitive policies will be a critical means to achieving the sustainable development goals (SDGs) says the paper, Sustaining healthy diets: The role of capture fisheries and aquaculture for improving nutrition in the post-2015 era.

The SDGs make achieving food security and ending malnutrition a global priority. However, the importance of fish for feeding our growing global population and providing a ‘healthy life for all’ is often overlooked says the paper.

The benefits of fish for health are well demonstrated. Fish intake is associated with a 36 per cent reduced mortality risk from heart disease and consumption of 60 g fish/day is associated with a 12 per cent reduction in mortality. An increasing number of countries are recommending minimum levels of regular fish consumption in their national dietary guidelines.

Shakuntala Thilsted, Program Leader, WorldFish, said: “Fish are beneficial to nutrition and health and will play an essential role in sustaining healthy diets. If the vision of the SDGs is to be attained, coordinated policy actions and investments that foster growth in which the benefits of fish are equitably distributed are essential. Fisheries and aquaculture must be seen as core components of the agriculture sector, as well as an entry point for multi-sectoral interventions aimed at improving nutrition and health outcomes.”

A greater focus on nutrition-sensitive policies in aquaculture and fisheries as opposed to policies that focus on productivity will contribute to greater health gains, especially in developing countries. Fisheries policies, the paper highlights are increasingly articulated around building exports meaning that less fish is available in poorer local communities. In aquaculture, policies tend to focus on maximizing productivity and economic efficiency at the expense of promoting diversity of systems and species, or accessibility of fish among poor consumers whose diets typically lack nutrient-rich foods.

The paper recommends multi-sectoral policy solutions based on: (a) diversification of production systems; (b) efficient management and protection of all systems; (c) improved value chains and markets; and (d) consideration of context-specific consumer preferences and nutritional needs.