We feed the world | WWF

We feed the world

Posted on 30 October 2015
Young children with small carps (cyprinid fish sp.). Tonle Sap River, Cambodia (Kampuchea).
© Zeb Hogan
[The original article was published on European Year for Development 2015 official platform]

And the world feeds us. The Milan EXPO 2015 is all about “Feeding the Planet. Energy for Life”. WWF puts the ocean’s nourishing resources at the heart of its presence in Milan. It’s all about fish – a vital source of food and income for more than 800 million people worldwide, most of them living in developing countries. We as consumers can make a difference – for the better or worse.

Mita, a single mother on Mali Island in Fiji, is considered the best mud-crab harvester in her village. She relies on fishing to provide for herself and her daughter. Life in Fiji has always been shaped by the ocean. The Pacific island nation is home to the Great Sea Reef. Over 200km in length, it’s the world’s third longest barrier reef system after Australia’s Great Barrier Reef and the Mesoamerican Reef off the Caribbean coast of Central America. The reef and associated ecosystems are fundamental to the country’s economy and people’s way of life. But the incredible marine biodiversity of our blue planet, and the diverse coastal cultures that have evolved upon it, face an uncertain future.

Empty seas, empty plates, empty pockets

The livelihoods of Mita and many of her fellow fisherwomen and men are at stake. One of the main reasons is the western world’s increasing demand for fish. On the one hand, seafood exports are a vital source of income for coastal communities in developing countries. On the other hand, global overfishing depletes the oceans and leaves people without fish. Since 1960, global seafood consumption has doubled. In a similar period of time, global populations of fish species utilised for local subsistence or commercial use have halved.

Europe is the biggest market and importer of seafood worldwide. Half of its imports come from developing countries. Hence, our fish consumption habits have both social and environmental impacts on nature and humans. An unsustainable choice of fish fosters overfishing and leaves Mita and others without food and income. Instead, a sustainable choice of fish helps the oceans to regenerate and supports both food security and income in developing countries.

At the Milan EXPO and across Europe, WWF attempts to increase consumer awareness, change the retailer’s product range and facilitate political change towards more sustainable sourcing of seafood. “Fish is the most traded commodity globally, 61% of fish stocks on the planet are fully fished and further 29% are overfished. We can’t ignore being part of the problem. At the same time, we should not forget that we as consumers have the power to be part of the solution”, says Sergi Tudela, fisheries expert with WWF Mediterranean.

WWF’s Fish Forward project mostly aims at raising the consumer’s knowledge about the fish on their plate so they can make a responsible buying decision in the future – in order to secure the livelihood of Mita and a vital source of protein for more than three billion people worldwide.

Learn more on sustainable seafood and the Fish Forward project: www.fishforward.eu
The Fish Forward project's "ugly" campaign raises awareness of social and environmental impacts of Europe's seafood consumption, particularly on developing countries.
Young children with small carps (cyprinid fish sp.). Tonle Sap River, Cambodia (Kampuchea).
© Zeb Hogan Enlarge