Publication Details

K. E. Charlton, J. Russell, E. Gorman, Q. A. Hanich, A. Delisle, B. M. Campbell & J. D. Bell, 'Fish, food security and health in Pacific Island countries and territories: a systematic literature review' (2016) 16 (1) BMC Public Health 1-26.


Background: Pacific Island countries and territories (PICTs) face a double burden of disease, with a high prevalence of household food insecurity and childhood micronutrient deficiencies, accompanied by a burgeoning increase in adult obesity, diabetes and heart disease. Methods: A systematic literature review was undertaken to assess whether increased availability of, and access to, fish improves a) household food security and b) individual nutritional status. Results: A total of 29 studies were reviewed. Fourteen studies identified fish as the primary food source for Pacific Islanders and five studies reported fish/seafood as the primary source of dietary protein. Fish consumption varied by cultural sub-region and Pacific Island countries and territories. Fish consumption and nutritional status was addressed in nine studies, reporting moderate iodine deficiency in Vanuatu where only 30 % of participants consumed mostly fresh fish. Similarly, the degree to which Pacific Islanders depended on fishing for household income and livelihood varied between and within PICTs. For more economically developed countries, household income was derived increasingly from salaried work and dependency on fishing activities has been declining. Conclusions: Fishing remains a major contributor to food security in PICTs, through subsistence production and income generation. However, there is a paucity of research aimed at assessing how maintaining and/or improving fish consumption benefits the diets and health of Pacific Islanders as they contend with the ongoing nutrition transition that is characterised by an increasing demand for packaged imported foods, such as canned meats, instant noodles, cereals, rice, and sugar-sweetened beverages, with subsequent decreased consumption of locally-produced plants and animals.