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Fisheries and aquaculture through a nutrition lens

Fish Market Scene - Sylhet - Bangladesh by Adam Jones is licenced under CC BY 2.0. No changes were made to the image.

Fish are a well-recognised source of high quality protein and play an important role in diets, particularly for the poor in many regions of the world. Fish are also a key but under-recognised source of micronutrients such as iron, zinc, calcium, vitamin A, vitamin B12 and essential fats. The fish food system is undergoing rapid change, with global non-farmed (wild) fisheries in decline, and rapid growth in aquaculture (fish farming), however the nutritional implications of this shift represents a significant knowledge gap.

Jessica Bogard’s work in Bangladesh found that the nutritional value of fish is diverse (Bogard et al. 2015) with non-farmed (wild caught) fish species more nutritious than farmed species (Bogard et al. 2017). With the recent transition away from non-farmed (wild caught) fish to farmed fish, the below figure shows that while people ate 30 % more fish in 2010 than in 1991 in Bangladesh, they received less nutrients (iron and calcium) from fish (Bogard et al. 2017).

Figure: Change (%) in fish consumption and nutrient intakes from fish from 1991 (as a baseline) to 2010 in Bangladesh. Figure from Bogard et al. (2017). Higher fish but lower micronutrient intakes: Temporal changes in fish consumption from capture fisheries and aquaculture in Bangladesh. PLoS ONE 12(4): e0175098.

This means that an increase in food supply does not necessarily equate to improved nutrition. As aquaculture becomes an increasingly important food source, it must embrace a nutrition-sensitive approach, moving beyond maximising productivity to also consider nutritional quality.

Contact Jessica Bogard for more information.