Energy Prices and (Sea)Food Security

N. Pellitier, J. André, A. Charef, D. Damalas, B. Green, R. Parker, R. Sumaila, G. Thomas, R. Tobin, R. Watson (2014). Global Environmental Change 23, 30-41.

Fish resources are critical to the food security of many nations. Similar to most contemporary food systems, much of fisheries and aquaculture resource supply chains are heavily dependent on fossil fuels. Energy price increases and volatility may hence undermine food security in somecontexts. Here, we explore the relationships between energy price changes, fish resource supply chain viability, seafood availability and food security outcomes – both for producers and consumers of fish resources. We begin by characterizing the energy intensities of fish resource supply chains, which are shown to be highly variable. We subsequently assess the comparative magnitude and distribution of potential food security impacts of energy price increases for nation states by scoring and ranking countries against a set of vulnerability criteria including metrics of national exposure, sensitivity and adaptive capacity. Considerable variability in the vulnerability of populations and high levels of exposure for already food-insecure populations are apparent. Developed countries are likely to be most exposed to the effects of energy price increases due to their high rates of fleet motorization and preference for energy-intensive seafood products. However, heavy reliance on seafood as a source of food and income, as well as limited national adaptive capacity, translates into greater overall vulnerability in developing countries. At the level of individual producers, a variety of adaptation options are available that may serve to reduce vulnerability to energy price changes and hence contribute to increased food security for producers and consumers, but uptake capacity depends on numerous situational factors.