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World Missing Out On Nutrition Due To Overfishing

The Marine Stewardship Council (MSC) – an international non-profit on a mission to end overfishing – says the world is missing out on enough protein to meet the yearly needs of 72 million people, because not all fisheries have been sustainably managed [1].

Seafood is a key source of nutrients and protein and plays a vital role in the diets of many people. More than 3.3 billion people around the world get at least 20% of their daily animal protein intake from fish2.

As the global population continues to rise, the demand for seafood is increasing pressure on this valuable, natural resource. Global consumption of seafood has risen by 122% in the past 30 years3. More than a third of global fish populations are now fished beyond sustainable limits, with this trend continuing to worsen4.

However, latest estimates suggest that if global fisheries are better managed, 16 million tonnes more seafood could be caught every year, helping to feed a growing world population5.

The MSC’s analysis shows if globally adopted, sustainable fishing practises would increase the additional protein available to meet the yearly needs of a population more than double that of New Zealand and Australia combined.

“The world’s population is set to reach 10 billion by 20506 and food production urgently needs to be made sustainable and equitable, to ensure healthy diets for all,” Anne Gabriel, Oceania Programme Director at the Marine Stewardship Council, says.

“Effective management of fisheries allows fish populations and marine ecosystems to recover, in turn increasing the number of fish that can be sustainably caught in perpetuity.

“Fish need time to grow and re-produce. Sustainable fishing allows this to happen. By conserving our rich marine resources, we also enable more people to have the protein they need to live healthily. As the global population continues to rise, the need to harness our natural resources responsibly is more urgent than ever.

“Around 15% of fish caught globally are certified to the MSC standard for sustainable fishing. In New Zealand that increases to 50% thanks to the pioneering efforts of the fishing industry, government and leading brands and retailers.”

“MSC-certified sustainable seafood means it’s been caught at a level where they’ll be around in the future. Just look for the MSC blue fish tick on seafood, available in leading supermarkets in the frozen, tinned and chilled aisles.”

In recent years, more fisheries than ever before have been adopting sustainable fishing practises. In 2020 there were 409 fisheries around the world certified to the MSC’s standard for sustainable fishing, with another 89 undergoing assessment8. To be MSC-certified, a fishery must show the fish population is healthy, that it minimises its impact on the environment and has effective management in place.

However, to accelerate change, fisheries need the support of governments to ensure that catch limits are in keeping with scientific advice, and that illegal, unregulated and unreported fishing is tackled, along with ensuring harmful subsidies that encourage overfishing around the world are eliminated.


[1] Figure calculated based on the following:

Ø 16 million more tonnes of seafood could be harvested each year if global fisheries were better managed (according to Costello et al)

Ø 16 million tonnes of seafood provide over 1.3 million tonnes of edible protein (where 82% is used for human consumption and of this 10% is edible protein)

Ø This is 72 million times the recommended annual intake of protein per person (where recommended daily intake is 50g, equivalent to 18.25kg per year)

Full details outlined in briefing: MSC Insights: Sustainable Fishing, Higher Yields and the Global Food Supply

[2] UN FAO State of Food Security and Nutrition in the World (Sofi 2020)

[3] UN FAO State of the world fisheries (Sofia 2020) Figure 2

[4] UN FAO State of the world fisheries (Sofia 2020) Figure 19

[5] Costello et al: Global fishery prospects under contrasting management regimes, Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS) 2016 113(18) 5125-5129

[6] UN World Population Prospects: 2019

[7] MSC annual report 2019-20: Celebrating and supporting sustainable fisheries

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