“We need to stop seeing climate, food and the ocean as three separate entities”

By Sophie Ryan | August 25, 2021

Sophie Ryan is CEO of the Global Salmon Initiative, a leadership effort established by global farmed salmon CEOs committed to helping feed the world in a healthier, more sustainable way through advancements in responsible salmon farming.

Here is her contribution to the Our World in Your Hands project.

As we head into COP26, we stand at a pivotal and crucial moment in time – we are at breaking point in terms of our surpassing our planetary boundaries. We are experiencing more extreme weather events, our food system is under pressure, our ocean is acidifying and being filled with plastic, and the global population continues to rise.

These are not new scenarios to you, I know. But, as we are failing to meet the Paris Climate Agreement, this year’s COP must be a milestone moment in setting new, ambitious goals to ensure we restore our planet.

There are solutions, and change is possible. This is the moment to mobilize that change.

One way  change can be mobilized is by better acknowledging the important role of the ocean. Not only can the ocean help stabilize our climate through carbon sequestration, but it also provides a source of healthy, sustainable, and low carbon food. This opportunity is far too often overlooked.

To set the context – our food systems cannot continue to function as they are without destroying ecosystems entirely, and more and more people suffering from malnutrition and diet related illnesses. The ocean covers 70% of our planet, yet currently provides only 5% of our food.

The Ocean Panel highlighted that the ocean could provide six times more sustainable food by 2050 if resources are managed responsibly. There is, therefore, a huge opportunity to better harness ocean resources in a responsible manner to provide nutritious, safe and nature-positive food.

Why blue foods?

I ask you to:

  • Recognize the vast benefits of the ocean from an ecological, nutritional, and economic perspective in conference discussions, so that these contributions are recognized in policies and priorities stemming from COP26
  • Improve governance of the ocean and the interconnectivity of their resources
  • Ensure accountability and transparency of ocean economies
  • Use the COP platform to drive collective action
  • Support responsible development of aquaculture as a complementary activity to ensure healthy global fisheries
  • Invest in blue foods research and knowledge-sharing
  • Ensure farmers and producers, especially women, have a seat at the table

Of course, blue foods are not a silver bullet for the challenges facing our food system. But, they play a vital role in achieving more resilient food systems and healthier, accessible and affordable diets.

We need to stop seeing climate, food and the ocean as three separate entities. By seeing their linkages – the positive and the negative – there is a huge opportunity to not only provide abundant healthy food, but to also improve access to low carbon foods, and done right – support a healthy ocean.

Done right is the key theme here, and unless global leaders fully acknowledge and include blue foods in their decisions, there is risk of us wasting this significant opportunity for people and planet. My ask to you, therefore, is to ensure blue foods are fully incorporated and considered in your decisions. By recognizing the ocean as a pillar of food systems in policymaking and programming at all levels (international, national and local), we will nourish more people in more nature-positive ways.

Sophie Ryan

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