The international development community is off-track from meeting targets for alleviating global malnutrition. Meanwhile, there is growing consensus across scientific disciplines that fish plays a crucial role in food and nutrition security. However, this ‘fish as food’ perspective has yet to translate into policy and development funding priorities. We argue that the traditional framing of fish as a natural resource emphasizes economic development and biodiversity conservation objectives, whereas situating fish within a food systems perspective can lead to innovative policies and investments that promote nutrition-sensitive and socially equitable capture fisheries and aquaculture. This paper highlights four pillars of research needs and policy directions toward this end. Ultimately, recognizing and working to enhance the role of fish in alleviating hunger and malnutrition can provide an additional long-term development incentive, beyond revenue generation and biodiversity conservation, for governments, international development organizations, and society more broadly to invest in the sustainability of capture fisheries and aquaculture.