Freshwater Fish: The Overlooked Solution to Food Scarcity
In a world where ocean fish are being heavily depleted due to overharvesting and we have to worry about global food shortages, it's hard to believe that freshwater fish, a food source possibly a bit closer to home, are being overlooked as a possible solution.
Inland fish are capable of making a bigger splash than you think. Described in the journal Global Food Security, millions of individuals around the world fish for sustenance, livelihoods, or recreation. While it may not seem like it compared to the large hauls commercial ocean fisheries bring in with their gigantic nets, catching small inland fish actually adds up to the point that it makes for a great alternative food source.
"All over the world there are people catching fish to feed themselves and their families," So-Jung Youn, a graduate student at Michigan State University (MSU) and lead author of the study, said in a statement. "Individually it may not seem like much, but it adds up to a significant amount of food, and it's a perspective people too often forget."
According to the study, inland fish like carp and tilapia are actually a crucial source of animal protein and provide essential micronutrients for local communities, especially in the developing world. However, "data concerning fisheries production and consumption of freshwater fish are generally inadequately assessed," the MSU team writes, and thus these smaller fish are undervalued for their potential food source possibilities. For example, the impact of hydropower and the building of dams and river diversions on freshwater fish is largely ignored.
Worldwide, only 156 of 230-plus countries and territories reported their inland capture fisheries production to the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations in 2010. That's in contrast to ocean fishing, where authorities have much better record-keeping and monitoring.
"It's not a question of whether we should stop using water for other purposes, but we need to consider what harms are being created, and if they can be mitigated," Youn said. "People are losing jobs and important sources of food because fish habitats are being degraded, greatly reducing fish production in these waters."
And with the human population growing at an unsustainable rate - one that can't even be culled by a worldwide pandemic - and global food sources being tapped out, we need to keep an open mind to all resources fit for human consumption - that includes freshwater fish.
So instead of looking at water and only seeing its possibilities for development and energy use, the MSU team implores that humans start looking below the surface.