Solution Cluster 3.2.5

The Alliance for Blue Foods

Blue, or aquatic, foods – fish, shellfish, aquatic plants and algae captured or cultivated in freshwater and marine ecosystems – play a central role in food and nutrition security for billions of people; they are a cornerstone of the livelihoods, economies, and cultures of many coastal and inland communities.

Despite their unique value and interconnections with terrestrial food systems, aquatic foods are often left out of food system analyses, discussions, research, decisions, solutions and resource allocations.  They are managed as a natural resource, and not as a critical component of strategies to deliver healthy, sustainable and equitable food systems.

Realizing the potential of blue foods to help end malnutrition and build nature-positive and resilient food systems is a critical element to meet the UNFSS vision to “launch bold new actions, solutions and strategies to deliver progress on [10 of the] 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), each of which relies on healthier, more sustainable and more equitable food systems”. Blue foods can make key contributions to diet-related health challenges – by reducing micronutrient deficiencies, improving heart, brain and eye health, and replacing consumption of less healthy red and processed meats – and be a part of the climate solution. Blue food transformation will not only increase the supply of nutritious food but also contribute to community resilience, good jobs, gender equity, and poverty alleviation. Thus, enhanced attention to this critical component of the planet’s food production and nutrition system will provide essential support to the mission of the Coalition of Action for Zero Hunger.

A series of international agreements reflect widespread consensus on much of what needs to be done. The urgent need is to mobilize action to deliver on those commitments. That is the ambition of the Alliance for Blue Foods.

About this Solution Cluster

SDGs 6 and 14 call for restoring and protecting marine and freshwater ecosystems, reducing pollution that contaminates those systems, ending overfishing and the subsidies that fuel overfishing, and supporting small-scale producers.  Blue foods also have a vital role to play in achieving many other SDGs – in addressing hunger and malnutrition, reducing poverty and providing livelihoods, and reducing the impacts of the food system on climate change and biodiversity loss.

The UN FSS reflects the growing international consensus that a sustainable and equitable food system is critical to achieving the SDGs. And there is growing international consensus – among policymakers who are focused on food, and those who are focused on fisheries – that blue foods are centrally important to the food system, and should be fully integrated into food system decision-making from this day forth.  In 2020, the World Committee on Food Security concluded that sustainable fisheries and aquaculture are “a fundamental condition for food security and nutrition.”  In its 2021 COFI Declaration for Sustainable Fisheries and Aquaculture, the FAO Committee on Fisheries (COFI) unanimously declared that governments should “ensure that fish are fully considered in national, regional and global food security and nutrition strategies.”  UN Nutrition has made a similar call in its recent paper on aquatic foods.  The International Year of Artisanal Fisheries and Aquaculture (IYAFA 2022), is a singular opportunity to advance action.

What is needed now is for Member States and a broad range of other stakeholders to come together in joined up action to tackle the challenges and deliver on the promise and opportunities of blue foods. The goal is to create a capability that is a valuable complement to what FAO Fisheries already does – distinctive both in drawing together Member States and an array of other actors, and in focusing on bringing blue foods to broader food system policymaking and policymakers; but building this in good coordination with FAO Fisheries and other key members of the Rome-based agencies.

The Alliance for Blue Foods (ABF) commits to work together to deliver concrete progress on these priorities. The coalition has two key missions:

(1) to raise the profile of aquatic foods in the context of food systems overall, so that they will be placed where they belong on the agenda (and budget) of decision makers not usually aware of their significance, such as health ministers, finance ministers, development ministers and prime ministers, and

(2) to mobilize support and cooperation for specific projects and opportunities to drive implementation of blue food priorities, in order to complement and accelerate the work already under way via FAO and other Rome-based agencies.  

Alliance members may find opportunities to advance action at a regional or global scale.  We anticipate, however, that most often Alliance initiatives will support action by countries: identifying a group of countries wanting to implement a core set of reforms or innovations and mustering investment, technical capacity and partnerships to support them. In particular, the coalition would look for opportunities to reach decision-makers who don’t usually pay attention to fish – health ministers, development ministers, prime ministers to:

  • Bring aquatic foods into the heart of food system decision-making. Integrate aquatic foods into holistic food policymaking; protect, manage and restore aquatic systems for their multiple environmental, nutritional and livelihood values; recognize that setting aside areas chosen wisely based on science and community input can enhance the overall productivity of food systems, protect and enhance critical spawning and breeding habitat, and build resilience to climate change.
  • Protect and develop the potential of blue foods to help end malnutrition. Manage aquatic foods as a source of essential nutrients that can help end malnutrition; recognize and harness the nutritional diversity of aquatic foods; include aquatic foods in national food-based dietary guidelines, school feeding programs, and social safety net programs; reduce loss of nutrients from waste, environmental change and management failures; and ensure equitable distribution of aquatic food production and consumption.
  • Support the central role of small-scale actors in fisheries and aquaculture. Small-scale actors supply most of the aquatic foods for direct human consumption. Women make up approximately half the fishing and aquaculture workforce. Governments need to ensure that small-scale actors – including women, Indigenous Peoples, and other marginalized groups – are included in aquatic food decision-making.
  • Protect inland and ocean food production against external threats. Healthy ecosystems underpin the vitality of blue foods and must be prioritized for their full nutritional and livelihood potential by controlling harmful practices and regulating competing uses.
  • Scale up research and collaboration in science, management and markets for aquatic food production to maximize nutrition and health, ecological and economic benefits, and resilience in fisheries and aquaculture management. Apply lessons from COVID about ways to improve local supply chains and ways to ensure that imported food provisioning and direct-to-consumer sales (e.g. via Community-Supported Fisheries and Aquaculture) and other market innovations build overall resilience to shocks from nature and beyond.
  • Unlock the potential of sustainable aquatic farming: The world now produces a larger quantity of farmed fish than beef. Aquaculture is the fastest growing source of food production, and now is the moment to steer it onto equitable, healthy, and sustainable paths.
  • Raise global awareness of the value of inland fisheries and their importance to nature-positive food and nutrition security. Given the significant pressures on and competition for freshwater resources, the future of freshwater blue food will rely upon improving sustainability and productivity through ecosystem scale and fishery scale management.
  • Fund blue food research, innovation, governance and management at a level commensurate with their contribution to global nutrition and livelihoods to develop sustainable and affordable sources of highly nutritious food, support vibrant markets for small producers, and build climate resilience.
  • Enlist industry to innovate and lead: As users of public aquatic resources, industry should commit to innovation and robust sustainability standards for capture fisheries and aquaculture.

The Alliance will bring together the many Member States that have expressed their commitment to blue foods as a priority, and other stakeholders, including a broad range of civil society organizations (global environmental and development NGOs; national and local NGOs; fisher cooperatives); diverse collaborative platforms from the private sector (such as Seafood Business for Ocean Stewardship (SeaBOS), and the International Collective in Support of Fishworkers (ICSF)); and leading research institutions.

The Alliance will work in partnership with the Rome-based Agencies — FAO, WFP, IFAD — and with WorldFish and the CGIAR.  It will take advantage of existing networks like the Global Action Network that Norway leads, the Blue Food Assessment, the Safe Seaweed Coalition, Rise Up for the Oceans and other regional collaborations such as the Pacific Community. It will align and interact with the efforts of the UN Decade on Nutrition and the UN Decade of Ocean Science, and with other Summit coalitions like the School Feeding Programs and Food is Never Waste to leverage and amplify progress.

ABF members will coordinate action through a Secretariat structure, to operationalize these commitments and announce progress on meeting these deliverables, with a consistent and action-oriented aquatic foods agenda and message, at:  UNFSS, UNFCCC COP 26, where we will make the case for nature positive fisheries and aquatic food production (such as mangrove and seaweed restoration and production) to the attainment of Nationally Determined Contributions); CBD COP 15, where we will advocate for 100% management of EEZs as a crucial mechanism for protecting and restoring biodiversity, consistent with the recommendations of the High Level Panel for a Sustainable Ocean Economy; and at Nutrition for Growth, IYAFA, UNOC and beyond, as appropriate, within the varying platforms and competencies of our members.

The Alliance for Blue Foods is a unifying, exciting and compelling component of the UNFSS agenda.

  • It embodies the several Action “Areas of Convergence” identified in the Secretary General’s Call to Action:
    • Nourishment
    • Climate and Biodiversity
    • Livelihoods and well-being (One Health)
    • Empowerment of Communities
    • Resilience
    • Knowledge and Innovation
  • It is:
    • Systemic and transformative
    • Grounded in 2030 Agenda – contributing significantly to achieving SDGs, 1, 2, 3, 5, 8, 12, 13, 14, and 17
    • Aligned to national development agendas and championed by countries
    • Multi-stakeholder
  • It will support international solidarity, bringing together countries and stakeholders around the world.
  • It will foster strong mutual accountability

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