The ocean contributes with only 2% of human food and 6% of dietary protein, despite harbouring half the global primary production. The relatively low contribution has been used to justify that food should mainly be produced on land, while sea food production should be reduced and the ocean protected. This project takes a step back and considers seafood as part of the global food system. Together with key stakeholders, the aim is to reimagine the role of fisheries based on the principles of sustainability rather than on current practices and beliefs. How would fisheries look like if the UN’s 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, the Paris Agreement on Climate Change, and the Convention on Biological Diversity were to define the objective of fisheries as maximizing global food production while minimizing ecological and climate footprint?
All food originates from organic matter photosynthesized by plants and algae. How efficiently this matter is transferred up the food chain determines how much food we can produce and extract. However, these fundamental processes are still inadequately understood. Aiming at more realistic estimates of overall sustainability, the project will refine models of primary production and ecological transfer of organic matter from algae to fish.
Increased harvesting at lower trophic levels has been suggested as one potential solution for extracting more food from the ocean. In order to identify desirable future food system states, the project will develop and analyse models of marine trophic ecology and integrate greenhouse gas emissions estimated for representative fisheries using Life Cycle Assessment.
Almost any sustainability solution depends on consumers and their choices. A key task is therefore to map peoples’ values towards nature and food production across sea and land as well as study people’s beliefs, preferences, judgments, and decisions in the context of sustainable food choices.
The oceans harbour half the global primary production but produce only 2% of human food and 6% of dietary protein. This project takes a step back, and together with key stakeholders considers fisheries as a food system, and deliberately try to ignore current practices and beliefs as we reimagine their role: What would fisheries look like if UN’s 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, the Paris Agreement on Climate Change, and the Convention on Biological Diversity were allowed to define the objective as maximizing food production while minimizing footprint?
- Use food systems analysis of fisheries as embedded within marine ecology to find ways fisheries can produce more food at reduced climate impact.
- Compare fisheries with other food systems to identify where seafood may alleviate global trade-offs between planetary boundaries.
- Measure and analyse how values, psychological mechanisms, and ethics may foster action and a bottom-up and fact-based transition towards sustainability.
More specifically, the project will model and analyse increased harvesting of small pelagics, critically assess impacts on biodiversity, revisit total ocean productivity by modelling primary production with inclusion of the microbial loop, improve trophic level theory, measure values and beliefs of citizens regarding nature and food production, analyse the psychological mechanisms of revising one’s values, and integrate everything in a food systems comparison across land and sea to identify how fisheries realistically can contribute more to global sustainability.
The project is interdisciplinary across biological oceanography, marine ecology, and psychology, with strong involvement of the seafood industry (Fiskebåt), a conservationist NGO (Nature and Youth), and Norway’s government agency advising and implementing seafood policy (Directorate of Fisheries).