Estimating the Ocean’s True Potential for Feeding the Planet

Award Period: 

Thursday, November 1, 2018 to Monday, July 15, 2019

Award Amount: 

$140 000

Agency Name: 


Award Number: 


PI First Name: 


PI last name: 



Andrew Plantinga

Area/s of Research: 


The global means of protein production (including soil, water, and other natural resource stocks) may be

reaching a limit. Without their systematic regeneration, future growth in food demand is unlikely to be met

and will drive further declines in our global food‐production system potential. The oceanic protein

production system currently plays an important role in global food security, but is grossly misused,

supplying much less today than what it would be capable of in a healthier, better managed state. The ocean

can and must play a crucial role in both the transition to, and the ultimate state of a rebuilt global protein

production system. This proposal asks: “What is the ocean’s contribution to a regenerative, fully sustainable

portfolio of protein sources capable of feeding nearly 10 billion people by the end of the century?” And,

“How will markets for ocean‐based food supply interact with land‐based sources?”

To answer this question, researchers from the Environmental Market Solutions Lab (emLab) at UC Santa

Barbara will collaborate with the International Institute for Applied Systems Analysis (IIASA) and SYSTEMIQ

to lead the ocean component of two larger research initiatives focused on improving global food systems

(one led by Food and Land Use Alliance (FOLU) and the other led by the High‐Level Panel on Sustainable

Ocean Economy (HLP)). SYSTEMIQ has been deeply involved in the conceptualization and launch of FOLU,

and thus is well positioned to provide overall direction and process management of the project. The

ultimate objective of this work is to make an economic case for transforming the way we produce food at

a global scale, and we aim to describe what that transformation could look like in the ocean through a series

of research activities described in detail below.