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From Coast to Coast: Empowering and investing in women fishers and fish farmers around the world | OECD Forum Network

Baskets of blue food at market.
Image Credit: Willow Battista

This excerpt is from a March 21, 2022 piece in the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) Forum Network. This article by Michelle Tigchelaar (Stanford Center for Ocean Solutions, BFA Core Team) and Karly Kelso (Environmental Defense Fund) is part of a series in which OECD experts and thought leaders — from around the world and all parts of society — address the COVID-19 crisis, discussing and developing solutions now and for the future.

Progress toward gender equality is critical for ensuring that blue food systems remain environmentally sustainable in a changing climate, continue to nourish our global population and contribute to thriving coastal communities.

Three billion people depend on our ocean, rivers and lakes for nutritious blue foods. By 2050, our global population is expected to reach 10 billion and global demand for blue foods is expected to double. Blue foods, including fish, shellfish and seaweeds, provide vital nutrients like protein, zinc, vitamin A and omega-3 fatty acids—nutrients important for all ages and sexes but especially for young children and pregnant and breastfeeding women. Although blue food supply chains employ roughly equal numbers of men and women, their roles, influence and benefits can be highly unequal. Progress toward gender equality is critical for ensuring that blue food systems remain environmentally sustainable in a changing climate, continue to nourish our global population and contribute to thriving coastal communities.

Earlier this month, we celebrated International Women’s Day and supported the call for action to accelerate women’s equality. Yet we still have a long way to go in recognising the immense importance of the contributions of women in coastal and fishing communities around the world. We need to take steps to advance gender equality and empower women to lead the blue economy.

2021: A banner year for blue foods

2021 elevated the importance of blue foods in global food system dialogues and ensured these foods got the attention they deserve. The first five Blue Food Assessment papers, which were published in various Nature journals, provided irrefutable evidence of the importance of blue foods. This body of work included deep dives into the nutritional contributions, environmental performance and climate risk of blue food systems and spurred mobilisation of stakeholders at the first United Nations Food Systems Summit (UNFSS 2021). Convened by the United Nations Secretary-General, UNFSS 2021 sought to identify game-changing actions and solutions that can transform global food systems and help progress towards achieving the 17 Sustainable Development Goals.

These efforts were successful as, for the first time in a global dialogue, blue foods were recognised as a key component to help make our food systems healthier, more sustainable and more equitable.

Read the full OECD Forum Network piece >

Read a related piece, “Women fishers are vital to the livelihoods, food security, health and culture of billions worldwide” >

About the Authors:

Dr. Michelle Tigchelaar (she/her) is an interdisciplinary scientist whose work focuses on the impacts of climate change on food systems, spanning the aquatic and terrestrial and the ecological and human. She obtained a MSc in Climate Dynamics from Utrecht University, and a PhD in Oceanography from the University of Hawaii. She is currently a Research Scientist with the Stanford Center for Ocean Solutions where she coordinates the Blue Food Assessment, a coalition of international researchers working to produce an integrative assessment of the role of aquatic foods (food from marine and freshwater systems) in transformations towards healthy, sustainable and just food systems. Her active research involves developing tools for assessing blue-green climate risk, and identifying climate impacts and adaptations for food worker health.

Karly Kelso is a Director, Climate Resilient Food Systems at Environmental Defense Fund (EDF) where she builds partnerships to elevate and advocate for the recognition of blue foods in contributing to global nutrition security and in enhancing resiliency to climate change and other global disruptions, like the COVID-19 pandemic. She leads the Secretariat for the Blue/Aquatic Foods Action Coalition established at the 2021 UN Food System Summit and has spent over 10 years on EDF’s Oceans team advancing sustainable fishery management implementation in Asia and the Pacific. Prior, Karly represented the Mission of the Marshall Islands at the United Nations and at the UN Conference on Sustainable Development (Rio+20). Karly holds a BA in Anthropology from Wake Forest University and a Master in Environmental Management from the Yale School of the Environment.