Four signs the seafood industry is getting wiser about the ocean
“Bitter realities” remain but signs exist that seafood industry operations are starting to be more reflective of stewardship ideals
- Much of the ocean is fished by multinational corporations and their subsidiaries and suppliers. Questions remain over their sense of stewardship
- A team of scientists, industry experts and civil society representatives analysed the sustainable seafood movement of the past 50 years
- They identified four dimensions in which efforts by actors within the seafood industry have aligned with theoretical concepts of stewardship
SLOWLY GETTING THERE: At a local level, many examples exist of coastal communities with close connections to their fishing grounds and surrounding seascapes, which have shaped sustainable resource management practices.
But much of the ocean is fished not by local communities, but rather multinational corporations and their subsidiaries and suppliers. So what hope is there that they can learn to be equally good stewards of the ocean?
According to a new study published in Frontiers in Marine Science, there are some bright spots to consider.
The study is the result of a collaboration between researchers from Stockholm Resilience Centre, the Beijer Institute and the GEDB-programme (both at the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences), as well as scientists, private sector experts and civil society representatives from Japan, Malaysia, Australia, Thailand, Netherlands, USA, Norway and Canada.
The seafood industry has the potential to transform humanity’s relationship with the ocean.
Robert Blasiak, first author
A 50-year journey
Blasiak and his co-authors analysed the scientific literature on the sustainable seafood movement over the past 50 years from a stewardship perspective.
Everything from seafood boycotts like “give swordfish a break” to the emergence of certification schemes and various voluntary environmental programs were examined.
Signs of alignment
The researchers identified four areas in which actions by the seafood industry are starting to align with concepts of stewardship.
- Evidence for “moving beyond compliance” with governmental regulations is provided by several cases, for example the Association of Responsible Krill Harvesting Companies (ARK), which established a series of voluntary spatial closures in the fishery that have been adhered by all members since 2018.
- A “systems perspective” (recognizing that a target species is part of and interacts in a broader ecosystem) is particularly evident in the aquaculture industry’s efforts to reduce the use of fish ingredients in aquaculture feed.
- “Living with uncertainty” is about recognising that natural variability can never be fully controlled for. One example is how salmon fisheries has started to focus on a portfolio approach, where better attention is paid to maintaining the genetic diversity of sub-populations to hedge against unexpected variation and change.
- “Understanding human society as part of nature”: the authors also saw some scattered evidence of this in industry reports. “Language in line with this thinking can be found throughout industry sustainability reports, yet how this is reflected in operations is less obvious,” they write.
While much of the paper focuses on the bright spots, it also identifies emerging stewardship challenges and acknowledges several bitter realities: overfished stocks, labour abuse and a number of other grim statistics that show the global seafood industry still has a long way to go to become truly sustainable, and an even longer road to fully realizing its potential as stewards not only of fish populations, but of the ocean.
Research news | 2022-06-28
Centre contributes to Vatican conference on climate resilience
The Pontifical Academy of Sciences will bring researchers, policy makers and faith leaders together to understand the scientific and societal challenges of climate change
Research news | 2022-06-27
Sand extraction: the biggest resource crisis you’ve never heard about
Sand is the world’s most exploited mineral but little is known about the industry behind it
Research news | 2022-06-23
What's at stake at the UN Ocean Conference?
We asked some of our experts why all eyes are turned to the UN Ocean Conference in Lisbon
Research news | 2022-06-23
Where to find us at the UN Ocean Conference
Where and when to find us during the UN Ocean Conference in Lisbon, Portugal 27 June - 1 July
Research news | 2022-06-21
Ocean research lacks female leaders
In senior academic positions women are still struggling to break the glass ceiling, new study shows
Research news | 2022-06-20
Malin Jonell awarded for novel approaches to Baltic Sea research
Centre researcher Malin Jonell has won the Östersjöakuten award 2022 for her research contributions to the Baltic Sea