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Ocean stewardship

CEOs of world’s leading seafood companies commit to science-based goals for a healthy ocean

By the end of 2021, ten of the largest seafood companies in the world will eliminate IUU fishing and forced, bonded and child labour in their operations; solve the problem of lost and abandoned fishing gear, clean up plastics pollution; reducing impacts on endangered species and the use of antibiotics; and set CO2 emissions reduction goals. Photo: J. Rezac/Wikimedia Commons

Story highlights

  • Ten of the largest seafood companies in the world have agreed to a number of goals to by the end of 2021
  • The goals are the result of four years of dialogues through the science-industry initiative Seafood Business for Ocean Stewardship (SeaBOS)
  • SeaBOS is a unique collaboration between scientists and seafood companies across the wild capture, aquaculture and feed production sectors

Commitments the result of unique science-business collaboration initiated by the centre

For the first time in the history of seafood production, ten of the largest seafood companies in the world have committed to a set of time-bound and measurable goals that will ensure the industry becomes more sustainable.

The goals are the result of four years of dialogues through the science-industry initiative Seafood Business for Ocean Stewardship (SeaBOS).

Commitments by 2021

During the October 2020 dialogue the companies agreed a number of goals to achieve their original commitments from 2016.

By the end of 2021, the SeaBOS members will:

  • Eliminate IUU fishing and forced, bonded and child labour in our operations– and implement measures to address those issues in their supply chains – with public reporting on progress in 2022 and 2025
  • Extend the collaboration with the Global Ghost Gear Initiative to solve the problem of lost and abandoned fishing gear; and combine to clean up plastics pollution from our coasts and waterways
  • Agree on a strategy for reducing impacts on endangered species and the use of antibiotics
  • Set CO2 emissions reduction goals and reporting approaches from each company

These goals will guide SeaBOS activities over the coming years, and are accompanied by toolkits for action.

The SeaBOS members acknowledge that climate change is having a significant impact on seafood production and that they can all do their share – through their own emission reductions targets and advocacy for implementation of the Paris Agreement.

The members highlight the need for government regulations to support sustainable fisheries and aquaculture management, to effectively mitigate climate change risks and impacts, and provide for ‘climate smart’ seafood production.

Unique collaboration

The work of SeaBOS reflects and supports the recently launched ocean action agenda set by the High Level Panel for a Sustainable Ocean Economy which commits to sustainable management of 100% of their national waters.

SeaBOS is a unique collaboration between scientists and seafood companies across the wild capture, aquaculture and feed production sectors. The collaboration has been coordinated by the Stockholm Resilience Centre.

Together SeaBOS represents over 10% of the global seafood production, and comprise over 600 subsidiary companies globally.

SeaBOS members include Maruha Nichiro Corporation, Nissui, Thai Union, Mowi, Dongwon Industries, Cermaq, Cargill Aqua Nutrition, Skretting, CP Foods, and Kyokuyo. Key scientific partners are the Beijer Institute for Ecological Economics at the Royal Swedish Academy of Science, University of Lancaster and Stanford Centre for Ocean Solutions.

The scientific work is funded by the Walton Family Foundation, the David and Lucile Packard Foundation and the Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation.

Six task forces

The work of SeaBOS is advanced through six different task forces, each led by companies in collaboration with, and supported by scientists, to identify, test and scale solutions related to challenges faced in the seafood industry:

  1. Addressing illegal, unreported and unregulated fishing and forced, bonded and child labour modern slavery
  2. Improve traceability in global seafood
  3. Working with governments to improve regulations
  4. Transparency and governance of SeaBOS
  5. Reducing plastic in seafood supply chains
  6. Climate Resilience

Scientists working together with business

Centre science director Henrik Österblom has been instrumental in not only establishing SeaBOS, but making sure it is built on best available science.

Starting in 2012, Österblom, together with several other centre researchers and beyond, identified the largest corporations of the global seafood industry, and dubbed them “keystone actors” in marine ecosystems. This was inspired by the classical ecology study on “keystone species,” where keystone actors are thought to have a disproportionate influence on the structure and function of the ocean.

Jan Bebbington, director of the Pentland Centre for Sustainability in Business at the University of Lancaster, and a key collaborator in the SeaBOS initiative, adds:

"The CEO commitments, courage to define time-bound goals, and willingness to publicly announce a number of ambitious and science based voluntary actions, represent an unprecedented commitment to sustainability."

Podcast: what it takes to make science and business connect

In this episode of Rethink Talks, Lisen Schultz, deputy director of transdisciplinarity at the Stockholm Resilience Centre (SRC), talks to SRC’s science director Henrik Österblom and Darian McBain, director for corporate affairs and sustainability at Thai Union, the world’s largest canned tuna producer.

Together they share thoughts and experiences on how it is working together to make the world’s largest seafood companies more sustainable.


Watch and listen to more episodes of the Rethink Talks podcast on the Rethink website.

Science background to SeaBOS and keystone actors

SeaBOS is the result of a science-based identification of “keystone actors” in global seafood carried out by the Stockholm Resilience Centre in collaboration with the Beijer Institute and GEDB Program at the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences.

These keystone actors are defined as:

  • dominating global volumes and revenues
  • being globally connected through subsidiaries and other networks of operations
  • dominating globally relevant segments of production
  • represented in global policy and management

They represent a phenomenon that is a product of, and driver of, globalization – they are a defining feature of the global production ecosystem and play a significant role in shaping the Anthropocene ocean.

Given their disproportionate power, action by the keystone actors – as a complement to actions taken by governments – can enable a widespread critical transition towards improved management of marine living resources and ecosystems.

> The research behind the SeaBOS initiative
> "Keystone actors" theory

Published: 2020-12-08

Stockholm Resilience Centre is a collaboration between Stockholm University and the Beijer Institute of Ecological Economics at the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences

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