Small fish and aquatic foods are important for nutrition and could make a big contribution to vanquishing malnutrition around the world.
Fish are rich in micronutrients essential to health and boost the nutritional value of foods they’re eaten with.
Small fish especially are an under appreciated nutritional resource. In addition to vitamins and minerals, aquatic foods provide protein with much lower greenhouse gas emissions than beef, chicken or pork.
Small island states may have benefitted economically from the interest foreign fishing fleets have shown in their waters, but the small fish islanders once depended on are thrown away as trash. As a result, malnutrition and ill-health are rife in many island and coastal communities.
Shakuntala Thilsted, Program Leader, Value Chains and Nutrition at WorldFish, told the FAO Committee on World Food Security in October that diverting just a fraction of the catch away from export to coastal communities could make a huge dent in the scourge of malnutrition around the world.
Taking small fish for nutrition to policymakers
Sharing the lessons we have learned is an essential element in our work. The government of Odisha in India sent senior officers to WorldFish to learn about how best to maximize the nutritional value of the state’s fisheries and aquaculture. After the visit to Malaysia, they traveled to Cambodia to see our work on nutrition-sensitive aquaculture and fisheries development.
Cambodia was also the focus of the final workshop in our Small Fish for Nutrition project, delivering the project results and planning scaling activities. Delegates from Ghana, India, Kenya, Malawi and Zambia joined in a study tour after the workshop to see how the project had improved the production and productivity of aquatic foods, and the consumption of fish and vegetables.
Aquaculture too can be made more nutritious, and innovative technologies have an important part to play. Solar-powered freezers and driers can prevent waste and improve incomes while at the same time increase the availability and affordability of nutritious aquatic foods. In Bangladesh, WorldFish worked to pioneer a chutney made of dried, whole, small fish species. One tablespoon a day provides pregnant and lactating women with most of the micronutrients they need, and they like it.
Encouraging the production and consumption of more small fish, at the same time as reducing waste and losses to make better use of existing supplies, can together improve nutrition among people who need it most.