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A Scoping Review of Aquatic Food Systems during the COVID-19 Pandemic

September 15, 2023
Reviews in Fisheries Science & Aquaculture

David C. Love, Lisa M. Weltzien, Andrew L. Thorne-Lyman, Natalie S. Armstrong, Elizabeth Chatpar, Marisa Koontz, Dahiany Zayas-Toro, Lionel Dabbadie, Jonathan Lansley, Felix Marttin, Stefania Vannuccini, Elizabeth M. Nussbaumer & Florence Poulain


The COVID-19 pandemic created an unprecedented shock to capture fisheries and aquaculture sectors. This scoping review of 670 articles explored the spatial, temporal, and thematic coverage of this event. The search period was January 1, 2020 to February 7, 2022. Articles were mainly peer-reviewed journals (88%) with the remainder from the gray literature (12%). Studies were performed at the global (21%), multi-country (11%), national (45%), and sub-national (23%) levels. Most studies involved primary or secondary data collection (71%) and the remainder were either review articles (17%) or commentaries (12%). Among the studies using primary and secondary data, nearly half (49%) were performed in the first five months of the pandemic (March to July 2020), and 84% within the first year of the pandemic (March 2020–February 2021). There were many studies in South and Southeast Asia, Southern Europe, China, and the United States, and fewer studies in other regions. The pandemic created challenges and opportunities, with heterogeneity in impacts among industrial and small-scale sectors, production methods, geographies, value chains, and by gender. Cumulative impacts from climate change and conflicts contributed to pandemic-related hardships. Increased unemployment and inflation led to rising food insecurity for small-scale producers, fishworkers, and low-income households. Aquatic food intake was more severely affected than other food groups during lockdowns, and it decreased more in low- and middle-income countries than in high-income countries. Responses were diverse, reflecting the capacity and resources of a country, but in general there was unprecedented public support to sustain the private sector (i.e., income support, tax relief, subsidies). As this study focused mainly on the first year of the pandemic, future work is needed to identify which groups exited the pandemic stronger or weaker, what factors enabled some populations to bounce-back, how the crisis affected value chains, and the effectiveness of interventions.