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What are ‘blue foods’ and why are they so crucial to our future?

April 5, 2024

Have you heard the term ‘blue food’? This is a term used by the scientific community to refer to anything we eat that comes from the water, so it covers fish, seafood and seaweed. This includes both wild caught and farmed seafood.

Blue foods currently provide essential nutrition to 3.3 billion people worldwide, and are a source of employment for around 10-12% of the global population.* But they have the potential to become even more important. In fact, the United Nations believes they have ‘an essential role to play in achieving food security, ending malnutrition and building healthy, nature-positive and resilient food systems.’**

In this blog we’re diving into the two key reasons blue foods are so crucial to our future, and sharing how ASC is contributing to the responsible and sustainable farming of blue foods.

Feeding a growing population

We already know that eating seafood has significant health benefits. It’s a brilliant source of protein that supports heart health, tissue repair, brain development and a healthy immune system. It also provides Omega 3 and Omega 6 fatty acids, which boost cell function and reduce inflammation, as well as vitamins A, D and B12 which we need for nerve, bone and brain health. You can learn more about the different nutrients seafood provides here.

As we mentioned above, 3.3 billion people already rely on seafood as a protein source. With our population growing steadily, this reliance on seafood is also predicted to increase, which means that the demands on the seafood industry will continue to grow too.

Currently 33% of wild seafood stocks are at their biological limit, meaning that they have been fished to a point where they can’t regenerate fast enough to meet demand. This means that wild caught fish and capture fisheries won’t be able to meet the needs of an even bigger population.

In contrast, the seafood farming industry has grown significantly in recent years and has the capacity to continue to expand to meet human need. This is why the UN believes that responsible seafood farming must be a key part of our planning for how to feed this growing number of people in a sustainable and affordable way.**

Reducing environmental impact

As individuals, the food we choose to eat has a significant impact on our personal carbon footprint. When we think about what goes into producing our food, we need to factor in the land and water used, greenhouse gas emissions created, harvesting methods, processing, packaging and refrigeration. This can all add up to a significant carbon footprint just to get your lunch from farm to fork.

What should we do? Simply put – we can reduce the impact of our diet on the planet if we focus on eating foods that have minimal environmental and societal impact and come from sustainable production systems.***

This is where choosing blue foods – which have a lower carbon footprint than other animal protein – can have a big impact. The carbon footprint of farmed salmon, for instance, is less than 5% of that of boneless beef, making it an easy switch to make to reduce the environmental impact of our diets.****

The carbon footprints of blue foods are so significantly lower than their terrestrial counterparts that it makes sense to prioritise the scaling of the seafood farming industry over agriculture. Blue foods can more sustainably fulfil the protein demand of a growing population without having the environmental impact that scaling agriculture would.

How can we ensure seafood farming stays sustainable and responsible?

With the growth of the seafood farming industry and the rising demand for blue foods, it’s easy to see how irresponsible practices can develop. We often hear from seafood lovers that they have concerns over practices they’ve heard about on unregulated farms.

That’s why ASC exists, to make sure that there is transparency in seafood farming and that farmers are supported in taking their environmental and social responsibilities extremely seriously. Our goal is to establish practices within the sector that will allow it to meet the needs of seafood lovers in a sustainable and responsible way over the long-term.

The ASC standards, which are the strictest in the world and based on the latest science, ensure that any farm that uses our label must adhere to a series of rules. This includes taking good care of the fish being raised, the people working on the farms, the local environment and the communities impacted by the presence of the farm itself.

This approach makes sure that farms don’t meet the demand for blue foods at the expense of the planet, but can actually exist in an environment and community where everyone and everything is taken into account. This will enable seafood lovers to continue enjoying seafood for generations to come, safe in the knowledge that it has been responsibly and sustainably farmed.

To find out more about ASC and how we are setting the standard for seafood, follow us on Instagram.

*FAO, The state of world fisheries and aquaculture

**United Nations, Blue foods are vital to global food security

*** Healthline, What does a sustainable diet look like?

**** The Fish Site, Assessing the carbon footprint of aquaculture

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