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Trade just as important to ensure food security as healthy fisheries (commentary)
10:44:22 AM | Friday, June 23rd, 2017

Author: Michael Fabinyi / Wolfram Dressler / Michael Pido

Any views expressed in this article are those of the author and not of Philippine Statistics Authority.

Marine conservation interventions are increasingly using improved food security in developing countries as a justification and an objective for their work. By improving the supply of fish through interventions such as marine protected areas (MPAs), it is commonly asserted that food security will therefore improve.

MPAs are viewed as interventions that will generate more fish and hence lead to greater levels of food security. The role or the value of fish in this sense is often viewed purely in terms of food. The way in which fish is considered to contribute to food security here is usually through its role in direct consumption.

Correspondingly, the role of trade in food security tends to get strongly minimised. Instead, in the marine conservation community, trade tends to get depicted as a threat to environmental sustainability and a subsequent threat to food security.

This is in many ways quite intuitively appealing: more fish surely equals more food. However, as Nobel laureate Amartya Sen argued more than thirty years ago, the availability of food supplies is not the only or even the most important factor when trying to understand food security. Instead, food security in the international development community is now considered as a wider phenomenon composed of availability, access, and use. From this perspective, fish trade can be central to food security.

Unlike many full-time farmers, full-time fishers do not grow their own staple food, and need to be able to sell their products. Scale is important here: while fish trade is undoubtedly a major contributor to the decline of fisheries stocks at a global scale, trade is fundamental for livelihood and food security at the household level. In our study from the coastal Philippines, recently published in the journal Human Ecology, we assessed the relationship between food security and fish trade.

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