United States endorses Aquatic Blue Food Coalition
A multi-sectoral Aquatic Blue Food Coalition was formally launched at the United Nations Ocean Conference held in Lisbon, Portugal in June.
The coalition includes the European Union, Fiji, Germany, Iceland, Japan, New Zealand, Canada, Palau, Portugal, and the United States, in addition to representatives from intergovernmental organizations, NGOs, academic institutions, aquatic food producers and those along the value chain, consumer groups, financial institutions, and philanthropies. In addition, a representative of the Indonesian government spoke at the launch event and the country is supportive of the initiative.
The launch of the Aquatic Blue Food Coalition comes after months of discussion catalyzed by the 2021 U.N. Food Systems Summit, which identified blue foods as a game-changing solution to transform food systems and meet the 2030 Sustainable Development Goals. More than halfway through the International Year of Artisanal Fisheries and Aquaculture, the U.N. Ocean Conference served as a critical opportunity to combine food system and ocean goals.
"This isn't just about one particular part of the world – it's about food security for all of the world. The United States is very determined to be a part of the solution, which is why I'm pleased to announce that we endorse this [Aquatic] Blue Foods Coalition,” U.S. Assistant Secretary of State for Oceans and International Environmental and Scientific Affairs of the United States Monica Medina said. “The United States is already taking action. We highlighted the importance of blue foods in the new U.S. Government Global Food Security Strategy for 2022-2026.”
Despite its name, the coalition will not be focusing narrowly on blue foods only as a natural resource, as its charter agreement calls for it to take a holistic approach to food-systems decision-making. The coalition has agreed blue foods have a vital role to play in achieving several Sustainable Development Goals, including addressing hunger and malnutrition, reducing poverty and providing livelihoods, and reducing the impacts of the food system on climate change and biodiversity loss.
Iceland Prime Minister Katrín Jakobsdóttir celebrated the launch of the Aquatic Blue Food Coalition at a “Future of Food is Blue” side event at the U.N. Ocean Conference.
“The ocean is not only crucial to addressing the climate crisis, it is also an enormous source of resources and food. It needs to be managed in a sustainable and responsible manner and, most importantly, to the benefits of the many and not only the few,” Jakobsdóttir said.
The side event united 16 speakers, including the representative from the United States, and shared the coalition’s vision to promote understanding, acceptance, and integration of sustainable blue foods in food systems and food value-chain decision-making. In addition, according to its declaration, the coalition committed to “raise the profile of aquatic foods in discussions of the future of food systems, including future international forums… and in national policy making;” and “mobilize support – including investment, technical capacity and partnerships – for countries, or groups of countries, that are setting out to integrate these foods into their food systems and to implement core aquatic/blue food priorities.”
“Small islands of the Pacific look eagerly to working with science, technology, industry, and other partners to develop highly sustainable models of blue food across the Pacific,” Fijian U.S. Ambassador Satyendra Prasad said.
At the opening plenary of the conference, Fiji Prime Minister Frank Bainimarama, chair of the Pacific Islands Forum, announced a commitment that, “by 2030, [Fiji] will produce more than 160,000 metric tons of sustainably farmed and harvested ocean product, supporting over 53,000 new jobs on [its] way to supply half of all blue foods from sustainable fisheries by 2035.”
Jochen Flasbarth, state secretary in the German Federal Ministry of Economic Cooperation and Development, said the coalition will build on the momentum of the 2021 U.N. Food Systems Summit and 2022 U.N. Ocean Conference to mobilize change.
“Last year, the United Nations Food Systems Summit stressed the importance of looking at land-based and aquatic food production together in a coherent manner. I'm glad to inform you that Germany has decided to join and support the Aquatic Blue Food Coalition. We see this coalition as a unique opportunity to advocate for blue and aquatic foods, which can play an important role in healthy diets and food security.”
The current members of the Aquatic Blue Food Coalition are: European Union; Fiji; Germany; Iceland; Japan; New Zealand; Palau; United States of America; Canada; Portugal; Indonesia ; The Pacific Community; WorldFish One CGIAR; Stanford Center for Ocean Solutions, Johns Hopkins Center for a Livable Future; Environmental Defense Fund; WWF; Friends of Ocean Action; Rare; Oceana; Monterey Bay Aquarium; Regional Cluster “North-East” – Bulgaria; Conservation International, RiseUp; Lloyd's Register Foundation; Care International, Wildlife Conservation Society; Safe Seaweed Coalition; Global Salmon Initiative; Blue Food Partnership, and the U.N. Global Compact.
Reporting by Jose Antunes
Photo courtesy of Environmental Defense Fund