A NEW study has shown that ensuring that millions of people in poor nations have access to the fish caught off their respective countries’ coasts could reduce malnutrition caused by lack of such nutrients as iron, zinc and calcium.
The study published in Nature by researchers from universities in the United Kingdom and the United States found that children under the age of five could see major health improvements if just a portion of the fish caught off their coasts was diverted to them.
Aaron MacNeil, an associate professor in the biology department at Dalhousie University, developed a model to predict the likely nutrient composition of fish species in 43 nations for seven key nutrients.
The research team he worked with found that fish caught in the fishing zones along the coasts of such African nations as Namibia and Mauritania is often exported or controlled by foreign nations.
“There are sufficient micronutrients available right now to deal with a huge problem of health and micronutrient deficiency in the world,” MacNeil said after the study was published.
He says if the fish were consumed locally, rather than shipped overseas, it would shift nutrients such as Omega 3 fatty acids into the diets of local people: “Fish solve the micronutrient deficiency that plagues so many people around the world.”
MacNeil noted that in Mauritanian waters, catches are mostly small pelagics including sardines and mackerel, which could be a key source of nutrients for 1.8 million people. However, the data reviewed by the group indicated that 70 per cent of that nation’s fish is currently caught by foreign fleets.