Aquatic (animal source) foods (AASF) to nourish nations (2021)

Golden, C.D., Koehn, J.Z., Shepon, A. et al. Aquatic foods to nourish nations. Nature 598, 315–320 (2021). (open source)


  • Despite contributing to healthy diets for billions of people, aquatic foods are often undervalued as a nutritional solution because their diversity is often reduced to the protein and energy value of a single food type (‘seafood’ or ‘fish’)1,2,3,4.
  • Here we create a cohesive model that unites terrestrial foods with nearly 3,000 taxa of aquatic foods to understand the future impact of aquatic foods on human nutrition. We project two plausible futures to 2030: a baseline scenario with moderate growth in aquatic animal-source food (AASF) production, and a high-production scenario with a 15-million-tonne increased supply of AASFs over the business-as-usual scenario in 2030, driven largely by investment and innovation in aquaculture production.
figure 1
  • By comparing changes in AASF consumption between the scenarios, we elucidate geographic and demographic vulnerabilities and estimate health impacts from diet-related causes. Globally, we find that a high-production scenario will decrease AASF prices by 26% and increase their consumption, thereby reducing the consumption of red and processed meats that can lead to diet-related non-communicable diseases5,6 while also preventing approximately 166 million cases of inadequate micronutrient intake.
  • This finding provides a broad evidentiary basis for policy makers and development stakeholders to capitalize on the potential of aquatic foods to reduce food and nutrition insecurity and tackle malnutrition in all its forms.

Discussion excerpt:

  • It is critical to consider where and how aquatic foods are produced, because environmental, social and economic impacts can vary widely across both the wild-capture and aquaculture sectors (Supplementary Methods).
  • Despite the variability in environmental impacts across animal-source food-production sectors, aquaculture and wild-capture fisheries nearly always produce fewer greenhouse gas emissions and use less land than the farming of red meats, and many AASFs outperform poultry33.
  • Sustainably and equitably achieving the human health benefits of expanded aquatic food production will require policies and technologies that mitigate impacts on adjacent ecosystems, industries and communities21.

Fig. 1: Nutrient diversity of aquatic animal-source foods in relation to terrestrial animal-source foods.

  • Aquatic (blue) and terrestrial (green) food richness assessed as a ratio of concentrations of each nutrient per 100 g to the daily recommended nutrient intake.
  • Each shaded box represents the median value of each nutrient in a muscle tissue across all species within each taxonomic group. 
  • Food groups were ordered vertically by their mean nutrient richness with higher values meeting a higher percentage of the daily recommended intake.

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