Nutritional contribution of aquatic biodiversity

Approximately 90% of global fishers work in small-scale fisheries in low- and middle-income countries, and rely on biodiverse global fisheries for their food and income. Yet within small-scale fisheries, data limitations in fish nutrient composition data obscure the value of small-scale fisheries’ harvests. To determine the links between fish availability and nutrition, we examine the nutrient composition of fish resources and the value of biodiversity in contributing to nutrition.

A review of the peer-reviewed literature to compile global nutrient composition database has highlighted the high levels of micronutrients in select fish species. This data has also been integrated in expanded databases and on-going research activities to examine patterns of fish nutrient contributions across ecosystems and the role of these understudied fish as critical food sources in global fisheries. This data is available within FishBase and the Aquatic Food Composition Database. Modeling in the Blue Foods Assessment, to which we contributed, expounded the contribution of global aquatic foods to nutrition under a range of futures scenarios.

In conjunction with elucidating the differences in nutrient composition across fish species, we also aim to better understand the value of biodiversity within aquatic systems. Work led by Sebastian Heilpern examines how the loss of biodiversity in aquatic systems alters the supply of nutrients. This work shows that the extent to which species are nutritionally unique and vary in their tolerance to environmental threats will shape the role biodiversity can play in safeguarding nutrient supplies. 

Example papers:

  • Golden, CG, Koehn, JZ, Shelpon, A, Passarelli, S, Free, CM, Viana, D, Matthey, H, Eurich, JG, Gephart, JA, Fluet-Chouinard, E, Nyboer, EA, Lynch, AJ, Kjellevold, M, Bromage, S, Charlebois, P, Barange, M, Vannuccini, S, Cau, L, Kleisner, KM, Rimm, EB, Danaei, G, DeSisto, C, Kelehan, H, Fiorella, KJ, Little, DC, Allison, EH, Fanzo, J, Thilsted SH. 2021. Aquatic Foods for Nourishing Nations. Nature. 598: 315-320.
  • Heilpern, SA, DeFries, R, Fiorella, KJ, Flecker, AS, Sethi, S, Uriarte, M, Naeem, S. 2021. Declining diversity of wild-caught species puts dietary nutrient supplies at risk. Science Advances. 7(22): eabf9967.
  • Heilpern, SA, Fiorella, KJ, Cañas, C, Flecker, AS, Moya, L, Naeem, S, Suresh, SA, Uriarte, M, DeFries, R. 2021. Substitution of inland fisheries with aquaculture and chicken undermines human nutrition. Nature Food. 2: 192-197.
  • Byrd, K, Thilsted, SH, Fiorella, KJ. 2020. Fish Nutrient Composition: A review of global data from poorly assessed inland and marine species. Public Health Nutrition. 1-11.