A new study shows the nutritional value of differing fish species available in differing ecosystems, but also how policies and misunderstanding of nutrition means that resource is being squandered in countries where it is most needed.
The study shows the various important micronutrients in differing types of fish, a resource which could solve serious malnutrition and developmental concerns among children in poorer or developing countries.
The solution often lies in the fish resources off those countries own coasts. Co-author Aaron MacNeil (PhD), is an associate professor and Canada Research Chair in fisheries ecology in the biology department of Dalhousie University, Halifax, Nova Scotia
The study involving researchers in Canada, the U.K. and U.S. was published last week in the journal Nature under the title “Harnessing Global Fisheries to Tackle Micronutrient Deficiencies“. (abstact here)
The authors begin by noting that micronutrient deficiencies account for an estimated one million premature deaths annually and can reduce gross domestic product by up to 11%. In developing countries this can be a significant impediment to advancement
In studying nutrients in some 350 fish species in various areas of the world, they found that some of the fish near vulnerable regions contained some of the more nutritious species.
MacNeil points out that many cultures and regions in the developing world have a very limited diet consisting for example of only a few staples such as rice, but that pregnant women and young children especially could see considerable health improvements if even a small percentage of local fish was included in their diet.
MacNeil notes that to generate wealth some developing countries sell off access to fish resources off their coasts to foreign fleets greatly reducing the fish resource for domestic needs, or in the case of small boat local fishermen, the catch may be sold off for money to buy other sources of protein, such as meat, but which contain fewer amounts of protein.
One of the main points of the study was to highlight the international need to help developing countries retain a portion of this resource for their own populations, and also to promote the resource and benefits of certain species of fish, in cultures or regions inshore where fish is not a common food, or certain species are not considered food.