A treasure trove of vital nutritional data on fish species is made freely available and accessible around the world – filling a knowledge gap that will fuel efforts to combat malnutrition around the world.
Although fish is an essential part of the diets of more than 3 billion people around the world and an essential source of micronutrients for over a billion people in low-income countries, many of these populations are losing their very nutritious fish to and from exports and foreign fishing In return, import lower quality fish and fish products, resulting in a net loss of essential nutrients.
In fact, up to 70% of the fish caught in the fishing zones along the coasts of African countries such as Namibia and Mauritania are exported or monopolized by wealthier foreign nations.
This is partly due to a traditional view that fish is perceived primarily as a source of protein, with less consideration being given to the micronutrient composition of different fish species – a perception based on a lack of available nutritional knowledge. For example, very small species can often be very nutritious – but since they are not protected due to their local food security potential, they are exported and processed into products such as fishmeal as animal feed.
Just a fraction of the highly nutritious fish caught in West African waters, which contain omega-3s, calcium, iron and zinc, could help significantly reduce the prevalence of malnutrition-related diseases such as maternal mortality, stunted growth and prevalence. Eclampsia.
A much-cited study of fish and nutrition published by Nature in 2019 and conducted by an international team of researchers led by Professor Christina Hicks of Lancaster University highlighted the need for a fisheries and food policy that focuses on improving nutrition not on increasing the amounts of food production or generating income from exports.
The 2019 study developed a finfish nutrient composition database that was used to develop predictive models for the availability of nutrients from global fisheries.
Now, this vital empirical and modeled information on the nutritional composition of more than 5,000 fresh and marine fish species is made available free of charge to scientists, policy makers, managers, academics and others involved in development.
The new initiative, which starts on June 23, 2021, will add nutritional data to FishBase – an online encyclopedia of fish with vital information on more than 34,000 freshwater and marine species. The database, available in 14 languages, is visited by more than 900,000 people each month, including fisheries biologists, managers, ecologists and sustainability scientists.
The initiative is driven by an international partnership of leading experts from the Ocean Frontier Institute, FishBase, WorldFish, the Lancaster Environment Center, the Sea Around Us research unit of the University of British Columbia, the Minderoo Foundation and other organizations.
It is hoped that including the information in the Global Commons will help identify how and where fisheries can help tackle malnutrition, identify vulnerabilities in food systems and develop an evidence base to protect local communities Support food environments and ecosystems.
Policy makers in each country may be able to identify the most nutritious and vulnerable of their local fish.
Professor Christina Hicks said, “Fish are increasingly recognized as a key to combating malnutrition, but this potential has yet to be realized. We hope that by bringing fishing and food communities closer together, this work can support the transition to fairer, more sustainable and healthier food practices. “
“The most important point in providing empirical and modeled values of nutrient composition to researchers through FishBase is to have a clear understanding of the nutrient potential and opportunities of global fisheries,” said Dr. Deng Palomares, the Sea Around Us manager and one of the people behind the new initiative. “This understanding, in turn, should help guide a more effective fisheries policy that takes into account the role fish can play in addressing micronutrient deficiencies – or what we call ‘hidden hunger’.”
“Providing scientific evidence to support the argument of the importance of fisheries in addressing global food security challenges has major political and societal implications,” said Professor Daniel Pauly, FishBase Co-Founder and the Sea Around Us Principal Investigator. “FishBase is the ideal host for this type of information as it is already a data provider for national systems for fisheries and aquaculture management and biodiversity monitoring.”
The initiative will kick off on June 23 from 2:00 p.m. to 3:00 p.m. UTC (3:00 p.m. to 4:00 p.m. BST) with a one-hour event. The kick-off event, hosted by the Ocean Frontier Institute at Dalhousie University, will include a group of leading experts, including US partners such as Professor Daniel Pauly, the world’s most cited fisheries scientist, and Dr. Shakuntala Haraksingh Thilsted, who recently received the World Food Prize for groundbreaking innovative methods of raising and including fish rich in micronutrients and fatty acids in the diet in developing countries.
The full panel for starting is:
Dr. Pip Cohen, Head of Research, Small-scale Fisheries, WorldFish and CGIAR Research Program on FISH
Professor Anya Waite, Ocean Frontier Institute, Dalhousie University
Professor Daniel Pauly, Co-Founder of FishBase, Sea Around Us – Institute for the Oceans and Fisheries, University of British Columbia
Dr. Deng Palomares, FishBase and Sea Around Us – Institute for the Oceans and Fisheries, University of British Columbia
Dr. Shakuntala Thilsted, Global Research Leader, Nutrition and Health, WorldFish and World Food Prize Laureate, CGIAR
Professor Christina Hicks, Lancaster University
Dr. Aaron MacNeil, Ocean Frontier Institute, Department of Biology, Dalhousie University
Dr. Kendra Travaille, Flourishing Oceans, The Minderoo Foundation
People can attend the kick-off event by registering at https://us02web.zoom.us/webinar/register/WN_IkSLT_Q8SI-qnae5oVHi-g. to register
FishBase can be found at www.fishbase.org
This collaboration was supported by the Oak Foundation, the Minderoo Foundation, the European Research Council, and the CGIAR Research Program on Fish Agri-Food Systems (FISH).
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