Press Release: Expert policy panel points to aquatic foods to drive healthy diets for all

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Leading international policy experts urge decision-makers to focus on aquaculture—the world’s fastest growing food production sector—for a sustainable food system transformation toward healthy diets. 

22 February 2021Penang, MALAYSIA – A new policy brief on ‘Harnessing aquaculture for healthy diets’ by the Global Panel on Agriculture and Food Systems for Nutrition (GLOPAN)—with research contributions from WorldFish—was launched last week during a virtual expert discussion on the critical role of aquatic foods in responding to the global call to action for a sustainable and resilient transformation of global food systems. 

Fish and other aquatic foods are among the most traded food commodities globally. The value of aquatic food production—through aquaculture alone—was $264 billion in 2018. The fastest growing agricultural sub-sector, its global production is projected to reach 105 million tons per year by 2029. The brief shows that aquaculture has real potential to accelerate economic growth, provide employment opportunities, improve food security, and deliver an environmentally sustainable source of good nutrition for millions of people, especially in low- and middle-income countries. If managed sustainably, aquaculture could provide a viable means to support capture fisheries alongside more sustainable practices and help reduce our reliance on terrestrial protein sources. 

Aquatic foods are a rich source of protein, omega-3 fatty acids, and micronutrients. Their production through aquaculture is key to support the provision of healthy diets for many who lack access to nutritious foods. For many people living in low and middle-income countries, aquatic foods are already the most accessible and affordable animal-source food. Compared to other animal source foods, they offer multiple nutritional benefits and are produced at a lower environmental cost. 

WorldFish Director General Dr. Gareth Johnstone said, “Aquatic foods offer a critical solution for the two billion people worldwide who suffer the triple burden of malnutrition, with women and children poised to benefit most.” 

“As we move toward the 2021 UN Food Systems Summit this year, evidence-based recommendations must guide policy development to ensure aquatic foods are an essential part of a food systems transformation for healthy people and planet. Sustainable aquaculture—as an important component of aquatic food systems—is critical to meeting shared national and global aspirations for establishing healthy, nutritious, sustainable, and inclusive food systems capable of achieving the Sustainable Development Goals by 2030.”  

The Global Panel on Agriculture and Food Systems for Nutrition (GLOPAN) Chair, Sir John Beddington, said, “Aquaculture has a clear role to play in supporting the challenge of providing healthy diets which are produced more sustainably, particularly in low- and middle-income countries. However, it is often overlooked in the global discourse on food system transformation.”  

Globally, the human appetite for aquatic foods shows no signs of slowing. To ensure production caters to growing demand, sound scientific data and knowledge must guide the growth of aquatic food systems that are resilient in the face of changing climate conditions and unexpected shocks, like the COVID-19 pandemic, which cause major disruptions to be social and economic activities. The policy brief outlines three key recommendations: 1) Food security and nutrition issues need to be better integrated into policy decisions relating to aquaculture, 2) Fish and related products produced from aquatic food systems should be fully incorporated into agriculture and trade policies, national food-based dietary guidelines, and considered within nutrition and health strategies, 3) Governments, development partners, and private sector entities must promote aquaculture training and skills development, and wider adoption of existing feed-related technologies to countries in low- and middle-income countries. 

This brief provides guidance for policymakers as they consider decisions related to the expansion of aquaculture, balancing issues related to diets and food security, economic growth and employment, and the environment. It also highlights a series of risks and challenges which must be addressed if aquaculture is to extend its contribution, such as reducing loss and waste and developing more sustainable feed options.   

Read the policy brief.  

Watch the expert discussion



For more information, please contact: 

Media/Press contact 

Matthew O’Leary 

Outreach and Strategic Communications Specialist 


About WorldFish  

WorldFish is an international, nonprofit research and innovation institution that creates, advances, and translates aquatic food systems science into scalable solutions. We vision an inclusive world of healthy, well-nourished people and a sustainable blue planet, now and in the future. Our mission is to end hunger and advance progress on the 2030 Sustainable Development Goals through science and innovation to transform food, land, and water systems with aquatic foods for healthier people and the planet. 

For over 45-years, WorldFish’s data, evidence, and insights have shaped practices, policies, and investments to end hunger and advance sustainable development in low- and middle-income countries.  We have a global presence across 20 countries in Asia, Africa, and the Pacific, with 460 staff of 30 nationalities deployed where the greatest sustainable development challenges can be addressed through holistic aquatic food systems solutions. Embedded in local, national, and international partnerships, our work sets agendas, builds capacities, and supports decision-making for climate action, food and nutrition security, sustainable fisheries and aquaculture, blue economy, OneHealth, and AgriTech, integrating gender, youth, and social inclusion.   

A core element of the 2030 WorldFish Research and Innovation Strategy: Aquatic Foods for Healthy People and Planet is focused on building resilience of aquatic food systems to shocks, which is critical to COVID-19 response and recovery. 

WorldFish is part of One CGIAR, the world’s largest agricultural research and innovation network. 

For more information, please visit    


The Global Panel on Agriculture and Food Systems for Nutrition works with international, multi-sector stakeholders to help governments in low- and middle-income countries develop evidence-based policies that make high-quality diets safe, affordable, and accessible. The Panel is an independent international group of leaders who hold, or have held, high office and show strong personal commitment to improving nutrition. It was formally established in August 2013 at the Nutrition for Growth Summit in London and is funded by the UK Foreign, Commonwealth, and Development Office (FCDO). 

The Panel is chaired by Sir John Beddington (former UK Government Chief Scientific Adviser) and works across food, agriculture, and nutrition, bridging gaps and examining food systems in a wider socio-political and economic context. This is described in the Panel’s technical brief on food systems. 

Panel members convene international and regional high-level round table meetings and use their extensive networks in governments, civil society, academia, and industry to bring together and influence policymakers from different sectors in the food system.