MSU faculty member dives into sustainable aquatic food-based solutions at United Nations event

Contact: Alaina Dismukes

Portrait of Gina Rico Mendez
Gina Rico Mendez (Photo by Megan Bean)

Gina Rico Mendez, an assistant research professor and research fellow at Mississippi State’s Social Science Research Center, is representing the university during the 24th United Nations Open-Ended Informal Consultative Process on Oceans and the Law of the Sea on June 18.

“The purpose of this event is identifying areas of intergovernmental and interagency coordination and cooperation, which is critical to this year’s topic, ‘The ocean as a source of sustainable food,’” said Rico Mendez, research and learning manager for the Feed the Future Innovation Lab for Fish. “Sustainable aquatic food-based solutions are at the core of the discussions in international development these days, and our work at the Fish Innovation Lab has a lot to contribute to this issue.”

Rico Mendez was selected as a panelist after the Fish Innovation Lab was invited to submit a speaker nomination by Ambassador Jessye Lapenn, the senior coordinator for the U.S. Department of State’s Atlantic Cooperation initiative.

“I am honored to have been invited to this event and represent the Fish Innovation Lab and all of the impactful work done by our researchers to support food security through the development of innovations in aquaculture, fisheries, and aquatic foods-based nutrition,” she said.

“Dr. Rico Mendez exemplifies our mission to alleviate poverty and improve nutrition through aquatic foods,” said Dr. Mark Lawrence, William L. Giles Distinguished Professor in MSU’s College of Veterinary Medicine and the director of the university’s Global Center for Aquatic Health and Food Security, which manages the USAID-funded Fish Innovation Lab. “She has been an integral part of the Fish Innovation Lab team since the day she came on board, and I am very pleased she will represent MSU at such an important event.”

Rico Mendez’s presentation highlights the complexities of the aquatic food system, the strategic approach taken by the Fish Innovation Lab as a part the Feed the Future strategy, and how the lab recognizes and works through these complexities to support research addressing critical gaps in sustainable management of wild fisheries in oceans.

“One of the Fish Innovation Lab’s previous activities illustrated the importance of addressing issues of sustainable, ocean-based food security by conducting complementary research on Distant Water Fleets, which are fishing fleets that operate outside their countries’ exclusive economic zones,” Rico Mendez said. “Recognizing and working through the intricacies of both fisheries and aquaculture systems, our researchers develop practical innovations to address local-level problems that have a global impact.”

MSU, as one of the nation’s top 100 research institutions, focuses on impactful research to address global hunger and food security. The Fish Innovation Lab is one of several integral programs at the university leading this charge.

“My presentation provides an opportunity to demonstrate the role that MSU’s leadership can play tackling global, critical issues through high-quality and impactful research such as the work that comes out of the Fish Innovation Lab,” she said. “I am eager to learn more from other panelists and be a part of the conversation at such a high-level meeting. I see this as a great opportunity to collaborate with other stakeholders as we seek to leverage resources to enhance sustainable development.”