Sustainability

Threatened Freshwater Fisheries Are Crucial to Food Security

Freshwater fisheries are a crucial source of food for millions of people, and they're being threatened.
Photo: Shutterstock

Food security is an important human right that can be increasingly difficult to uphold in the 21st century. Between rampant income disparities around the world, gross waste of food in countries like the United States, political insecurity and war, and global climate change, finding ways to ensure that the most vulnerable people in the world have access to enough food is a serious concern.

But food security isn’t a simple cut-and-dried issue either. There’s much more to it than just how much food people have; there are questions about where that food comes from and what kind of food it is. There’s a difference between “enough food” and “enough nutritious food.”

Animal protein, for example, is increasingly difficult to come by for many of the poorest people in the world even as ever-growing sections of Africa and Latin America are given over to cattle, because that meat is largely intended for better paying markets, especially in cities.

A recent study has found that “freshwater fish provide protein for the nutritional equivalent of 158 million people,” meaning that fish provides most or all of their animal protein. That means freshwater fisheries must be considered when building dams or other large-scale projects. It also means that it must be considered when addressing global climate change and pollution, both of which are already starting to have an impact on the amount of fish that people are taking out of the rivers.

But those hauls are almost universally smaller than they used to be. Freshwater fish are having a hard time keeping up with human needs, which will be bad for biodiversity and human rights if those fish populations aren’t more carefully managed.

Finding the fine line between ecological management and food security is easier said than done, and something that needs to be taken into consideration as we work to mitigate and undo the damage of human actions on the global environment.

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