Through an incredible diversity of species and products, seafood supply chains provide essential nutrition to billions of people around the world. In addition to being the principal source of long chain omega-3 fatty acids that are central to human health and development, these foods also provide us with crucial minerals, vitamins and vital amino acids.

Today, though, seafood has conceivably reached its most defining moment. With a world population that’s growing at an unprecedented rate – on target to perhaps reach 10 billion people by 2050 and becoming increasingly mobile and urbanised in the process – and with fish consumption on a consistent growth trend since the 1960s, it’s essential that the sector finds ways not just to maintain but to increase its contribution to food and nutritional security.

 

Growth opportunities

Seafood’s importance is being exacerbated by strains in other sectors. Already, the incremental demand for food, fresh water and energy is exerting increasing pressure on a number of traditional, finite resources, and there’s the expectation that current agricultural systems will not be able to supply enough food for everyone. At the same time, and despite the clear growth trends, fish and shellfish still only account for 7% of the proteins consumed worldwide, while just 2% of all the food that we eat comes out of the sea – even though our oceans cover more than 70% of the Earth’s surface.

Therefore, as we look ahead to the challenge of providing those 10 billion people with healthy diets that are produced within planetary boundaries, seafood is ideally placed to do much, much more; to be one of the most productive and sustainable food systems for people and planet. In theory, this is certainly achievable. A 2020 report commissioned by the High Level Panel for a Sustainable Ocean Economy, entitled “Ocean Solutions that Benefit People, Nature and the Economy”, states that the ocean is capable of producing six times more seafood than at present in a sustainable way by 2050.

 

Meeting expectations

What’s equally critical is that supply chains stand up to public scrutiny. Ever shifting trends, values and technologies have dramatically elevated consumers’ engagement with food products in recent times, with people wanting to establish how and where they are produced ­and that they are safe and healthy to eat. Also increasingly at the forefront of their purchasing decisions are pro-people and planet issues such as environmental responsibility, fair labor practices, ethical sourcing and production processes, sustainability and transparency.

Trust is of paramount importance in this new consumer landscape. Having trust and the market’s acceptance that everything is as it should be in a product’s journey all the way to the plate, responsible seafood businesses can kick on, providing more of the healthy and delicious to much wider, appreciative audiences; without that trust, they run the risk of missing out on a golden opportunity and leave themselves wide open to very costly discredit.