Eating fish imported from poor African countries can help rather than harm those economies according to new research by scientists at the UN Food and Agriculture Organisation, working in partnership with the University of East Anglia.
The report draws on research by Dr Arthur Neiland and Dr William Emerson of the UK government-funded Sustainable Fisheries Livelihoods Programme (SFLP). It will be presented to the BA Festival of Science on September 6 by SFLP policy adviser Dr Edward Allison, of UEA's School of Development Studies.
Drawing together recent studies of the global fish trade's impact on developing economies, Dr Allison concludes that far from taking high-quality food from the mouths of the poor, exports to the West are both morally justifiable and economically sensible because the revenues they generate can improve local food security and boost the domestic economies.
"Our work on the seafood trade between Europe and West Africa reveals that, in general, trade does not decrease food security," said Dr Allison.
"This is because the fish that are traded internationally are generally higher-value species, such as tuna, hake, sole, shellfish, octopus and squid, which would have been destined for luxury urban markets anyway, rather than being an important part of the diets of the poor and food-insecure."
Fish are the most traded of all agricultural commodities and, valued at $71 billion per year, their trade is worth more than the whole coffee, tea and sugar trades put together. There is a net flow of fish from developing countries to the developed world and sometimes poor countries sell the rights to their fish to wealthy European countries whose own fishing fleets have already depleted waters closer to home. At first glance, this is another example of rich countries exploiting the resources of the poor, and indeed, this is the way the trade is often portrayed - for example in the Oscar-nominated document
Contact: Simon Dunford
University of East Anglia