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food security

Report on integration of fisheries into food security policy presented to UN

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Report on integration of fisheries into food security policy presented to UN

Professor Allison and colleagues have long been advocating for increased consideration of food security in fishery policy and vice versa.  "Fisheries and the oceans are finally being featured in high-level discussions about food security, after years of trying to make the case that fish and seafood are important components of the global food system - and not just a concern for marine conservation or trade discussions," noted Professor Allison. "While that message seems to be getting through, a concern of our FAO partners was that most UN country officers and organizations concerned with food security at national and local levels were not very familiar with fisheries nor how to go about including them in food security planning." 

The past few months have seen some forward momentum on this front as Professor Allison and PhD student, Zach Koehn, worked with FAO staff to provide briefing notes to assist the integration of fisheries into food security policy.  The document was presented to delegates at the UN Food and Agriculture Organization's Committee on Global Food Security when it met in Rome in October and was publicly released this month. 

Furthering the work's impact, Zach led the joint MARINA Lab and FAO team in turning this report into a chapter in a forthcoming book on the Oceans in the Anthropocene, edited by Melissa Poe of NOAA and Phil Levin of University of Washington and The Nature Conservancy. The team looks forward to continuing this trajectory and increasing awareness and action toward integration of food security and fishery policy.

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Two papers published in Nature

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Two papers published in Nature

This past week Professor Allison co-authored not one, but two papers published in the journal Nature. The studies published represent two different aspects of his work: one takes a statistical approach to 'big data' in order to glean understanding from global patterns of reef health, while the other focuses on the role fish play in nutrition worldwide. Both are global in scale. 

 

1. 'Bright Spots' in Coral Reefs 

Lead by Joshua Cinner of James Cook University, the first paper is a truly collaborative effort with nearly 40 authors representing over 30 institutions. With a forward-looking approach, the gaggle of researchers champion the idea that outliers are not just anomalies, but sources of potential game-changing information. They apply this concept to the future of coral reefs by identifying and learning from both 'bright spots' and 'dark spots' - in other words, reefs that are doing better than might be expected and those that are doing worse than would typically be expected. After compiling data from more than 2,500 reefs worldwide, the authors identified 15 bright spots and 35 dark spots. The study revealed that bright spots are characterized by strong sociocultural institutions, high levels of local engagement in management, high dependence on marine resources and beneficial environmental conditions.

Bright and dark spot locations (b) and the extent to which they deviated from expected biomass levels (a). Almost all bright spots are located in the Pacific Ocean.

Bright and dark spot locations (b) and the extent to which they deviated from expected biomass levels (a). Almost all bright spots are located in the Pacific Ocean.

Other authors include Tim McClanahan of Wildlife Conservation Society, Stuart Sandin of Scripps Institution of Oceanography, Jack Kittinger of Conservation International Hawaii, Larry Crowder of Stanford's Center for Ocean Solutions and Rashid Sumaila of University of British Columbia's Fisheries Economics Research Unit.

 

2. Fish Catch and Human Health

The second paper is lead by Christopher Golden of Harvard University and Professor Allison and presents calculations suggesting that declining numbers of marine fish will lead to malnutrition for 11 percent of the global population, or 845 million people. The authors note that fish are an important source of micronutrients - such as zinc, vitamin-A, and iron - in addition to their more widely acknowledged role of providing protein. By combining data on fish catch and dietary nutrition, the study suggests that low-latitude developing nations, in which human health is most dependent on fish, will also be the most impacted by decreases in fish catch and availability.

Projected changes in marine catch globally.

Projected changes in marine catch globally.

The other authors on the study are William W.L.Cheung, Madan M. Dey, Douglas J. McCauley, Matthew Smith, Bapu Vaitla, Dirk Zeller and Samuel S. Meyers.

Read more about Allison’s work in the UW Today articles Bright spots’ shine light on the future of coral reefs & Falling fish catches could mean malnutrition in the developing world.

 

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Which should come first in fishery improvement projects: sustainability improvements or market access? Dr. Allison co-author on Science paper released today

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Which should come first in fishery improvement projects: sustainability improvements or market access? Dr. Allison co-author on Science paper released today

Dr. Allison is a co-author on a paper released today in Science, entitled "Secure sustainable seafood from developing countries". In this Policy Forum paper, Allison and co-authors call attention to the complexity of fishery improvement project implementation especially in regards to the potential for unintended impacts in developing country fisheries. For more information see the UW press release copied below or the full paper in Science.


Demand for seafood from wild fisheries and aquaculture around the world has nearly doubled over the past four decades. In the past several years, major seafood retailers in developed countries have committed to source their seafood from only sustainably certified fisheries and aquaculture, even though it is not clear where that supply will come from. 
A team of researchers has evaluated fishery improvement projects, which are designed to bring seafood from wild fisheries to the certified market while promising sustainability in the future. In a policy paper appearing May 1 in Science, they conclude these projects need to be fine tuned to ensure that fisheries are delivering on their promises.

"Fishery improvement projects are a good idea for sustaining fisheries that supply developed countries like the U.S., but they don't reach the small-scale fisheries supplying local markets in Africa and Asia that employ the vast majority of the world's fisher folk and support a larger proportion of the world's fish consumers," said co-author Edward Allison, a University of Washington professor of marine and environmental affairs.

"Nevertheless, with the E.U. and North America being among the largest markets for the seafood that is exported from developed countries, making this export-orientated part of the seafood system sustainable would help sustain some of their major fishery resources."

Retailers such as Walmart in the U.S. and Sainsbury's in the U.K. have promised that soon all the fresh, frozen, farmed and wild seafood they sell will come from sustainable sources. Respected private third-party certification programs like the Marine Stewardship Council are helping to ensure compliance with standards designed to help conserve fish populations and protect oceans.

While many of the sustainability standards have been met by commercial fisheries in the developed world, fisheries in developing countries make up only 7 percent of the council's certified fisheries, even though these developing-country fisheries account for about half of all seafood entering the international market.

Sustaining fisheries that supply the seafood choices of well-fed consumers in developed countries could lead to neglect of the management needs of fisheries that supply poorer consumers in developing countries, Allison said.

"While the fish imported to the U.S. from poorer countries helps their economies, we do need to leave space for small-scale fishers and fish traders to stay in business, and we shouldn’t let our developed-world appetite for sustainable seafood override more pressing needs for food, employment and the survival of their societies and cultures," he said. "This means also supporting local community-based management and local marketing systems."

Fishery improvement projects have been developed to get fisheries on a path to sustainability. These projects involve partnerships between the fishermen and firms up and down the international seafood supply chain. The partnerships must create market incentives for continual improvements by allowing seafood from these developing-country fisheries to enter the potentially more lucrative export market for certified seafood.

"It is hoped that the projects will protect marine life and ecosystems in areas where local and national governments have not acted to oversee sustainable practices, while also satisfying the demand for sustainable seafood," said Gabriel Sampson, a UC Davis graduate student and lead author of the study. 

Fishery management reforms should include data collection and ongoing monitoring, strengthening harvest and access rights to the resources, limits on the catch, and instituting traceability throughout the supply chain, the researchers say. They suggest, for example, that if access to the fisheries is not better regulated, the current efforts by retailers to secure sustainable, wild-caught seafood could stimulate a "race to fish" and ultimately undermine the sustainability claims.

Without the proper safeguards to ensure progress and reforms in fishery improvement projects, fisheries with full sustainability certification – such as that provided by the Marine Stewardship Council – could find their market benefits diluted by the increased competition for a share of the global certified seafood market.

The researchers project that multiple types of certified seafood in the market could lead to a "race to the bottom" in terms of sustainability standards, unless the fisheries improvement projects are carefully monitored to make sure that seafood retailers closely adhere to the sustainable-improvement requirements for market access.

Other co-authors are James Sanchirico and J. Edward Taylor of UC Davis; Cathy Roheim of the University of Idaho in Moscow; Simon Bush of Wageningen University in the Netherlands; James Anderson of the University of Florida in Gainesville; Natalie Ban of the University of Victoria in Canada; Rod Fujita of the Environmental Defense Fund; Stacy Jupiter of the Wildlife Conservation Society; and Jono Wilson of The Nature Conservancy.

This research was funded by the David and Lucile Packard Foundation. Allison's work on food security was also funded by the Rockefeller Foundation.

This story was adapted from a UC Davis news release.

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