25 October: World Food Day 2023

Last week, NAMMCO Secretariat joined the celebration of World Food Day by sharing food-related content on our Facebook page. World Food Day is an annual international celebration of the founding of the UN’s Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) in 1945, taking place on the 16th of October. Each year, there is a different theme, and events and education revolve around it. In 2023, the theme was “water.” Although our planet is called “Earth,” it is worth noting that about 71% of its surface is covered by water. Oceans are a vital source of sustenance for countless people across the globe.

We began the week by diving into marine food webs, exploring what they are and the vital roles that marine mammals play within them. Marine food webs can be very complex, and marine mammals function both as predator and prey within them—throughout the Facebook post series we delved more into some of these roles.

We then wanted to shed some light on the role of humans in relation to marine food webs. Humans are an integral component of every food web on this planet, marine ones included. In over 100 countries all over the world, marine mammals are still consumed. They are an especially important part of the diet in coastal communities at northern latitudes, as they have historically been abundant and reachable from the shore or small boats, and therefore are a sensible resource. When we consider sustainability and seek sustainable solutions, it is important to address all aspects of the sustainability puzzle, encompassing environmental, social, and economic factors. There is no one-size-fits-all solution; instead, solutions should be tailored to local contexts. Greenland serves as an excellent example, where locally hunted seals contribute positively to various aspects of life and sustainability, while the alternative of importing food has negative effects on well-being, the local economy, and the environment.

We also took this opportunity to find some interesting and peculiar behaviours marine mammals show when food is in the picture. For instance, there is an Indo-Pacific bottlenose dolphin population in South Australia where one individual was recorded removing the cuttlebone and ink sack before eating a cuttlefish, making it more digestible, as well as a better tasting meal. The presence of clean, intact cuttlebones floating around feeding areas of this population suggest that this recorded feeding habit is more widespread within this population. Some whales make the hunt for their meal easier by cooperating with humans. There are records of killer whales and humans hunting baleen whales together for mutual profit, where both species of hunters use less energy then used when hunting alone. Human hunters would thank the killer whales with the lips and tongue of the whale bounty. This cooperation lasted for decades before humans broke the trust of the orcas and joint hunting stopped.

This week, we’ve come to appreciate that the concept of food is complex and offers various perspectives for exploration. If you want to learn more about NAMMCO’s work and our mission, we invite you to explore our Website. To stay updated on our upcoming events and activities, we encourage you to follow us on Facebook and Instagram.

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