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Updated: 1 hour 28 min ago

Small-scale octopus fisheries can provide sustainable source of vital nutrients for tropical coastal communities

Thu, 26/01/2023 - 15:23

Research led by Cambridge scientists, and published in Nature Food, shows that tropical small-scale octopus fisheries offer a sustainable source of food and income to communities that face food insecurity, where the prevalence of undernourishment can exceed 40% and stunting in children under five commonly exceeds 30%. 

The high micronutrient density of octopus - including vitamin B12, copper, iron and selenium - means that human populations only need to eat a small quantity to supplement a diet primarily comprising staple plant crops. The new research shows that just a small amount of production in a tropical small-scale octopus fishery can deliver the micronutrient needs to a relatively large number of people.

The fast growth and adaptability of octopuses to environmental change can also facilitate sustainable production, and catch methods in the fisheries - primarily consisting of hand techniques, small-scale lines, pots and traps - are less environmentally harmful than those of large industrial fishing.

Dr David Willer, lead author, from the Department of Zoology at the University of Cambridge and a Fellow at Murray Edwards College, said: “Worldwide, nearly half of people’s calories come from just three crops – rice, wheat, and maize - which are high energy, but relatively low in key nutrients. Just a small serving of something very, very micronutrient rich, like octopus, can fill critical nutritional gaps. And, of course, if you get better nutrition as a child you’re much more physically and mentally prepared for later life, which can lead to better jobs, better employment and better social development.

“These small fisheries also provide an income and a livelihood, often to women whose economic status is enhanced as a result. Small-scale octopus fisheries revolve around local communities and potentially that gives them a greater resilience against market pressures and other disruptions to global food supply and trade.”

Small-scale fisheries, across all sectors, currently provide more than two-thirds of the fish and seafood destined for human consumption worldwide, and employ over 90% of fishers involved in capture fisheries. 47% of the workforce employed in these fisheries are women.

Based on a global review of data from global seafood databases and published literature, and written in partnership with science-led social enterprise Blue Ventures, the research found that in many cases tropical small-scale octopus fisheries are operating using relatively low impact techniques, and when combined with local and national management approaches can provide a more sustainable source of seafood. Successful approaches include periodic fishery closures, size restrictions, and licences. The need for knowledge transfer of fishing gears is also crucial so that the message on fish sustainability and securing the food supply and economic stability is spread widely. 
 

Undernourished coastal communities in the tropics - where children’s growth can be stunted by a lack of micronutrients – can get the vitamins and minerals they need from sustainable small-scale octopus fisheries, say researchers.

Just a small serving of something very, very micronutrient rich, like octopus, can fill critical nutritional gaps.Dr David Willer, Department of ZoologyBlue Ventures


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Yes

Companies’ ‘deforestation-free’ supply chain pledges have barely impacted forest clearance in the Amazon

Fri, 28/10/2022 - 09:13

Corporate pledges not to buy soybeans produced on land deforested after 2006 have reduced tree clearance in the Brazilian Amazon by just 1.6% between 2006 and 2015.

This equates to a protected area of 2,300 km2 in the Amazon rainforest: barely the size of Oxfordshire.

The findings, made by tracing traders’ soy supplies back to their source, are published today in the journal Environmental Research Letters. The work involved a team from the University of Cambridge, Boston University, ETH Zurich and New York University.

The researchers also discovered that in the Cerrado, Brazil’s tropical savannah, zero-deforestation commitments have not been adopted effectively - leaving over 50% of soy-suitable forests and their biodiversity without protection.

Brazil has the largest remaining tropical forests on the planet, but these are being rapidly cleared to rear cattle and grow crops including soybean. Demand for soy is surging around the world, and an estimated 4,800 km2 of rainforest is cleared each year to grow soybeans.

The majority of soy is consumed indirectly by humans: soybean is widely used as feed for factory-farmed chickens, pigs, fish and cattle. It also accounts for around 27% of global vegetable oil production, and as a complete protein source it often forms a key part of vegetarian and vegan diets.

By 2021, at least 94 companies had adopted zero-deforestation commitments – pledging to eliminate deforestation from their supply chains. But the study revealed that many of these commitments are not put into practice.

And the researchers say that adoption of zero-deforestation commitments is lagging among small and medium sized food companies.

“Zero-deforestation pledges are a great first step, but they need to be implemented to have an effect on forests – and right now it’s mainly the bigger companies that have the resources to do this,” said Professor Rachael Garrett, Moran Professor of Conservation and Development at the University of Cambridge Conservation Research Institute, a joint senior author of the report.

She added: “If soybean traders actually implemented their global commitments for zero-deforestation production, current levels of forest clearance in Brazil could be reduced by around 40 percent.”

Deforestation is the second largest contributor to global greenhouse gas emissions after fossil fuel use. It also causes the loss of diverse animal and plant life, threatens the livelihoods of indigenous groups, and increases inequality and conflict.

The researchers say that the supply chains of other food products including cattle, oil palm and cocoa supply chains are more complex than soy, making them even more difficult to monitor.

“If supply chain policies intend to contribute to the task of tackling deforestation in Brazil, it’s crucial to expand zero-deforestation supply chain policies beyond soy,” said Garrett, who is also Professor of Environmental Policy at ETH Zurich.

A ‘soy moratorium’ was the first voluntary zero-deforestation commitment in the tropics – by signing it, companies agreed not to buy soybeans produced on land deforested after 2006. But while the commitment was implemented in the Brazilian Amazon, most Brazilian soy is produced in the Cerrado – which is rich in biodiversity.

The researchers say their findings suggest private sector efforts are not enough to halt deforestation: supportive political leadership is also vital to conservation efforts.

“Supply chain governance should not be a substitute for state-led forest policies, which are critical to enable zero deforestation monitoring and enforcement, have better potential to cover different crops, land users, and regions,” said Garrett.

In 2021, the COP26 Glasgow Leaders’ Declaration on Forests and Land Use committed to halt and reverse deforestation by 2030. It was signed by over 100 countries, representing 85% of global forests.

This research was funded by the US National Science Foundation, NASA Land-Cover and Land-Use Change Program, and US Department of Agriculture's National Institute of Food and Agriculture.

Reference

Gollnow, F., Cammelli F., Carlson, K.M., and Garrett, R. D. ‘Gaps in Adoption and Implementation Limit the Current and Potential Effectiveness of Zero-Deforestation Supply Chain Policies for Soy.’ October 2022, Environmental Research Letters. DOI: 10.1088/1748-9326/ac97f6

More companies must make and implement zero-deforestation supply chain commitments in order to significantly reduce deforestation and protect diverse ecosystems, say researchers.

Zero-deforestation pledges are a great first step, but they need to be implemented to have an effect on forests.Rachael Garrett© Greenpeace / Alberto Cesar AraújoAn area of the Amazon rainforest cleared for soya production


The text in this work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License. Images, including our videos, are Copyright ©University of Cambridge and licensors/contributors as identified.  All rights reserved. We make our image and video content available in a number of ways – as here, on our main website under its Terms and conditions, and on a range of channels including social media that permit your use and sharing of our content under their respective Terms.

YesLicence type: Attribution-Noncommerical

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