Zero Hunger and Life Below Water: Sustainable Utilization of Marine and Freshwater Resources for Global Food Security (Academic Panel)

This panel challenges the Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) ‘Zero hunger’ to link closer with the SDG ‘Life below water’ promoting the conservation and sustainable use of the marine (and we add freshwater) resources. According to HLPE (2014) the qualities of fish are not fully recognized in global food security. Consumption of fish and its contribution to the diets, especially of low income populations and vulnerable Groups such as pregnant women and lactating mothers, offers important means of improving nutrition.

Despite this, fish is strikingly missing from strategies for reduction of nutrient deficiency, precisely where it could potentially have the largest impact. Moreover, for food insecure households, the ability to purchase other food items with incomes generated throughthe utilization of marine and freshwater resources is vital for ensuring their nutritional status. Thus governance ensuring access for poor, unemployed and marginalized groups to sustainably harvest and market marine and freshwater resources such as fish, shells and seaweed is crucial.

Fish production leaves behind a substantially smaller carbon footprint than meat production (Bene et al., 2015), and seafood is increasingly in demand as luxury, healthy and ‘environmentally friendly’ food among the middle class in expanding urban areas in both the Global North and South. Thus, whereas promoting the goal of increased fish consumption is legitimate from both a health and sustainability perspective, it also implies challenges of inequalities in the accessibility and affordability of marine and freshwater foodconsumption.

The world’s capture fisheries are increasingly approaching planetary boundaries, largely caused by rich countries’ heavy subsidizing of their capital intensive industrial fishing fleets resulting in overcapacity and overfishing, often occurring illegally in poorer countries with weak regulation enforcement. During the last two decades, growth in the world’s per capita fish supply has therefore mainly occurred through expanding marine and freshwater aquaculture. Whereas aquaculture expansion could have a potential of contributing to feeding an increasing world population with nutritious fish, this industry also causes challenges concerning environmental impact and usage of wild fish that could have been used for human consumption as well as agricultural food products such as soya and wheat for fish feed.

The sustainable use of marine and freshwater resources to reduce hunger thus encompasses important global and regional inequality dilemmas. To address these challenges, we welcome papers on topics such as:

  • Importance of fisheries and fish trade for food security
  • Contribution of fish to improving nutrition
  • Governance of industrial and/or small-scale fisheries
  • Globalizing fish markets
  • Fish as food or feed
  • Resource use conflicts (e.g. between fishers and oil industry, mining, tourism,  aquaculture and conservation regimes such as marine parks)
  • Pollution affecting fish food safety
  • Climate change impact on marine and freshwater food production


Bene, C., Barange, M, Subasinghe, R., Pinstrup-Andersen, P. Merino, G. Hemre, G-I. and Williams, M. (2015) Feeding 9 billion by 2050 – Putting fish back on the menu. Food Security, 7: 261-274.

HLPE (2014) Sustainable fisheries and aquaculture for food security and nutrition.  A report by the High Level Panel of Experts on Food Security and Nutrition of the Committee on World Food Security, Rome 2014.

Organizers: Ragnhild Overå (UiB), Jeppe Kolding (UiB), Marian Kjellevold (NIFES), Halvar Andreassen Kjærre (IMER Bergen)