A side event at the Jeju Congress, organized by the Fisheries Expert Group of the Commission of Ecosystem Management of IUCN (IUCN/CEM/FEG) called for the integration of two current streams of discussion about marine resources, those concerning food security and biodiversity conservation. The presenters were Serge Garcia and Jake Rice and the main conclusions of the event follow.

Fisheries are important for food security in much of the world at present, providing 20% of the protein for a large part of the world’s population, particularly in the less developed countries. Moreover, many projections of impacts of climate change on food production predict decreases in production of the key grains (wheat, rice, maize) in coming decades in the parts of the world where fish are most important to diets, and where most of the additional 2 billion people on the planet are expected by 2050. Thus the pressure to increase the contribution of fish protein to human diets is expected to increase greatly over the next 3-4 decades, with rough estimates suggesting that there will be a need for a 50% increase in fish protein by 2050, just to break even with human nutritional requirements.

Strategies to meet those needs require either changing the trophic level at which fisheries focus, to allow more biomass to be harvested, or development of intensive aquaculture and mari-culture or both. Opportunities for small-scale integrated aquaculture and farming, and for intensive coastal mari-culture are of particular interest. However, all of the possibilities have significant implications for conservation of biodiversity. These include conversion of highly productive areas from natural systems to intensively managed ones, use of non-native species in culture facilities with associated risks of escape into wild systems, and further altering of marine food webs by harvesting more biomass from forage species.  
There is a need for forums where there can be serious dialogue about the needs to both meet the food security needs of growing human populations, particularly in less developed states and to protect aquatic biodiversity and natural functioning systems. Currently dialogue on each issue is ongoing, but in separate places, with different participants, and different views of risk tolerances for various outcomes. Without integrating the two discussions and seeking necessary trade-offs, there is a high risk that policies will be developed independently for meeting human food security needs and conserving aquatic biodiversity, with efforts to implement preferred policies working antagonistically rather then coherently.

Despina Symons is Director of the European Bureau for Conservation and Development