SASKATOON -- The world will consume twice as much seafood by 2050, according to new research.

But despite this increased demand for aquatic animals such as fish, mollusks, or crabs (all known as blue foods), a stronger turn to sustainable fishing could help address malnutrition and lower humanity’s environmental footprint overall.

“Few, if any, countries are developing their blue food sector to provide ecological, economic, and health benefits to its full potential,” Prof. Rosamond Naylor, founding director at Center on Food Security and the Environment at Stanford University, said in recent press release.

As part of a series of new research involving his centre, the Blue Food Assessment (BFA) last month released five new peer-reviewed papers projecting that more sustainable fishing and moving away from traditional capture fishing, could lead to boosting people’s livelihoods and a “profound” effect on nutrient deficiencies, especially among lower-income populations.

Blue food species, such as trout, carps, oysters and mussels for example, are richer in important nutrients as compared to other food sources like chicken.

“This assessment aims to provide the scientific foundation for decision-makers to evaluate trade-offs and implement solutions that will make blue foods an instrumental part of an improved food system from local to global scales, said Naylor, co-chair of the BFA, a global joint initiative of more than 100 scientists from 25 institutions, which also includes the Stockholm Resilience Centre at Stockholm University and the Center for Ocean Solutions.

Sustainable fishing could also be a shot in the arm to helping addressing climate change.

“On average, the major species produced in aquaculture, such as tilapia, salmon, catfish and carp, were found to have environmental footprints comparable to chicken, the lowest-impact terrestrial meat,” the BFA said.

But in order for people to see the benefits, green policies and investments must be put in place now and built upon in coming years.

“Blue food systems facing the highest risk from climate change are also typically located in those regions where people rely on them most and where they are least equipped to respond and adapt to climate hazards,” the BFA said.

“We are nine fishing seasons away from the deadline for achieving the 2030 Sustainable Development Goals, so the urgency is high,” said Prof. Jim Leape, co-director of the Stanford Center for Ocean Solutions, referencing the group of goals set up by the UN General Assembly in 2016 as a means to create a sustainable future for all.

“This research can help policymakers, companies, financiers, fishers and consumers capitalize on the immense potential of blue foods to help achieve those goals.”


But advocates say part of what needs to happen today is ensuring seafood is caught with minimal effect to natural stocks and the ecosystem.

Marine Stewardship Council (MSC) -- one of the largest global non-profit fisheries certification programs -- said BFA’s recent research is something that should spur on further action from fishing companies, consumers and governments.

“Pressures are going to increase in the oceans… so we've really got to do what we can to protect our fish populations and just our oceans,” Kurtis Hayne, program director at MSC Canada, told CTV News Channel on Saturday.

His group encourages people to buy seafood with the MSC’s Blue Fish logo because it means the non-profit has verified the food was caught using methods that didn’t deplete the natural supply; hasn’t been mislabeled; and that fishing companies didn’t cause serious harm to other life in the sea, including dolphins, turtles or coral.

“That’s a really a simple act anyone can do to protect our oceans, really provide benefits back to our oceans, and ensure that fish stocks are preserved for future generations,” Hayne said.

Although it should be noted that MSC has faced criticism and questions from oceans experts over the label, however, with some organizations recently expressing concern the MSC’s certification process does not properly account for bycatch – animals such as sharks and cetaceans which weren’t meant to be scooped up in fishing nets.

Meanwhile, when it comes to government oversight over sustainable fishing practices in Canada, conservation groups in the past have criticized the fact that although the United States and the European Union do have traceability systems for their seafood, Canada does not require that seafood include information proving its origin, legality or sustainability status.

The Canadian Food Inspection Agency has said while fish is considered an at-risk food group because of how valuable certain species of fish can be, their own study from March found that 92 per cent of all fish was “satisfactorily labelled with proper common names.”