Four ways blue foods can help achieve food system ambitions across nations
Blue foods, sourced in aquatic environments, are important for the economies, livelihoods, nutritional security and cultures of people in many nations. They are often nutrient rich1, generate lower emissions and impacts on land and water than many terrestrial meats2, and contribute to the health3, wellbeing and livelihoods of many rural communities4. The Blue Food Assessment recently evaluated nutritional, environmental, economic and justice dimensions of blue foods globally. Here we integrate these findings and translate them into four policy objectives to help realize the contributions that blue foods can make to national food systems around the world: ensuring supplies of critical nutrients, providing healthy alternatives to terrestrial meat, reducing dietary environmental footprints and safeguarding blue food contributions to nutrition, just economies and livelihoods under a changing climate. To account for how context-specific environmental, socio-economic and cultural aspects affect this contribution, we assess the relevance of each policy objective for individual countries, and examine associated co-benefits and trade-offs at national and international scales. We find that in many African and South American nations, facilitating consumption of culturally relevant blue food, especially among nutritionally vulnerable population segments, could address vitamin B12 and omega-3 deficiencies. Meanwhile, in many global North nations, cardiovascular disease rates and large greenhouse gas footprints from ruminant meat intake could be lowered through moderate consumption of seafood with low environmental impact. The analytical framework we provide also identifies countries with high future risk, for whom climate adaptation of blue food systems will be particularly important. Overall the framework helps decision makers to assess the blue food policy objectives most relevant to their geographies, and to compare and contrast the benefits and trade-offs associated with pursuing these objectives. A study proposes four ways in which foods sourced in aquatic environments can contribute to healthier, more environmentally sustainable and equitable food systems, and examines the relevance of these ambitions to nations.