Food security is under threat in the Pacific. Agricultural production is not keeping pace with population growth and two thirds of Pacific Island countries and territories (PICTs) are now net importers of food. Regrettably, the low nutritional quality of many of these imports has increased the incidence of obesity, diabetes and heart disease.
A combination of other factors, including rising global food and fuel prices, climate change, a loss of traditional knowledge and increasing rural–urban migration, are also undermining food security in the region.
The Pacific Islands Forum leaders have recognised the seriousness of the threat to the future well-being of people across the region and have prioritised action on food security under the Pacific Plan (see the 2008 Forum Communiqué).
Fish are important to food security because they are high in protein and rich in essential fatty acids, vitamins and minerals, such as iodine. The significance of fish in Pacific diets, particulaly of children, is widely recognised.
SPC's Public Health Programme advises that up to 50 percent of the daily protein intake recommended by WHO for good nutrition will need to come from fish for people in the Pacific. This means that, on average, each person in the region should eat 35 kilograms of fish per year.
For more information on this important issue, see SPC Policy Brief 1/2008: "Fish and Food Security"and "Fish-cornerstone of future food security"
• Bell et al. (2009) Planning the use of fish for food security in the Pacific Bell et al. (2009), Marine Policy 33: 64-76. Copy available on request from Johann Bell.
• Bell et al. (2008) Importance of Household Income and Expenditure surveys and censuses for management of coastal and freshwater fisheries, SPC Fisheries Newsletter #127: 34-39.