Transnational corporations as ‘keystone actors’ in marine ecosystems

Summary

Keystone species have a disproportionate influence on the structure and function of ecosystems. Here we analyze whether a keystone-like pattern can be observed in the relationship between transnational corporations and marine ecosystems globally. We show how thirteen corporations control 11-16% of the global marine catch (9-13 million tons) and 19-40% of the largest and most valuable stocks, including species that play important roles in their respective ecosystem. They dominate all segments of seafood production, operate through an extensive global network of subsidiaries and are profoundly involved in fisheries and aquaculture decision-making.

Based on our findings, we define these companies as keystone actors of the Anthropocene. The phenomenon of keystone actors represents an increasingly important feature of the human-dominated world. Sustainable leadership by keystone actors could result in cascading effects throughout the entire seafood industry and enable a critical transition towards improved management of marine living resources and ecosystems.

Information

Publication info: Österblom, H., J.-B. Jouffray, C. Folke, B. Crona, M. Troell, A. Merrie, J. Rockström. 2015. Transnational corporations as ‘keystone actors’ in marine ecosystems. PLoS ONE 10(5): e0127533.