IAFI's Bomell: Opportunities for seafood but industry needs to do more

The global seafood sector has many compelling stories to tell with regard to being a vital source of food, nutrition, income, and livelihood for hundreds of millions of people around the world, but it could still make a much better job of sharing its successes with the people buying its products, said Carey Bomell, president of International Association of Fish Inspectors (IAFI).

“Seafood is a sector that faces both grand challenges and tremendous opportunities,” Bomell told delegates at the World Seafood Congress 2017 (WSC) in Reykjavik. Therefore, when it comes to ensuring an economically viable global seafood industry, he said it was critical that stakeholders incorporate all of the multiple elements that are now changing the dynamics of the industry into the decision-making process. 

Strategies are required to mitigate global impacts and to better respond to ecosystem issues, he said.

“Seafood is considered by many as the world’s perfect protein, containing essential fats, vitamins and minerals, and providing a wide range of health benefits. Also, when compared against other proteins, seafood is considered among the least impactful in terms of its overall environmental footprint," he said. "I believe this sector has and continues to make some major progress to improve best-practice globally, but much more needs to be done."

Bomell said the growing global population will drive major changes in the seafood industry in the near future. 

“We are in the midst of a period of unprecedented global change, which will significantly impact seafood production in the years ahead," he said. "A major driver of this change has been the world population growth, which grew from 3 billion in 1960 to 7.2 billion in 2014 and is forecast to surpass 9 billion by 2050.”

This growth, along with increased health awareness, the expanding middle classes in the developing world and higher disposable incomes have resulted in a level of global seafood demand never seen before, said Bomell. 

In line with this trend, the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) recently estimated that an additional 40 million metric tons (MT) of aquatic food would be required by 2030 just to maintain current per capita consumption. 

“That poses a challenge as well as an opportunity for the seafood sector as it aims to meet this demand for sustainable and responsible products," Bomell said.

Bomell also highlighted that climate change has been having a significant impact on species abundance and distribution in capture fisheries as well as the overall productivity of key aquaculture species, while a variety of other global trends have been affecting the value chain. 

“From a sustainability standpoint, the sector must increasingly demonstrate a variety of robust certification standards for both fisheries and aquaculture, and most seafood markets now require these as a condition of access," he said. "Furthermore, government’s regional fisheries management bodies are requiring industry to demonstrate requirements around illegal, unreported, and unregulated (IUU) fishing practices, while key biodiversity targets need to be met.”

Other factors that will continue drive and shape seafood in the years ahead include increased globalization, free trade agreements (FTAs), compliance with acceptable labor standards and new technologies to address labor challenges and improve global competitiveness, he said.

“And all these trends are occurring alongside an increasingly engaged and empowered seafood consumer that wants to know more about what they are eating," he said.

At the moment, though, the industry is failing to collectively communicate its achievements, Bomell concluded.


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