Debates on seafood in the Global South tend to prioritize food security, whereas debates on seafood in the Global North emphasize sustainability. We track the evolution of both debates and propose the concept of ‘sustainable commoditization’ to reconcile them. We identify three pillars of action that are necessary for sustainable commoditization of seafood in the Global South, namely: (1) sustainable intensification; (2) supply chain transformation; and (3) supporting policy and regulation. We believe that the concept of ‘sustainable commoditization’ is applicable well beyond the seafood sector and is especially relevant for agriculture and forestry more generally.
Subscribe to Journal
Get full journal access for 1 year
only $8.67 per issue
All prices are NET prices.
VAT will be added later in the checkout.
Rent or Buy article
Get time limited or full article access on ReadCube.
All prices are NET prices.
Hicks, C. C. et al. Harnessing global fisheries to tackle micronutrient deficiencies. Nature 574, 95–98 (2019).
Golden, C. et al. Fall in fish catch threatens human health. Nature 534, 317–320 (2016).
Funge‐Smith, S. & Bennett, A. A fresh look at inland fisheries and their role in food security and livelihoods. Fish Fish. 20, 1176–1195 (2019).
Troell, M. Does aquaculture add resilience to the global food system? Proc. Natl Acad. Sci. USA 111, 13257–13263 (2014).
Willett, W. et al. Food in the Anthropocene: the EAT–Lancet Commission on healthy diets from sustainable food systems. Lancet 393, 447–492 (2019).
Bush, S. R. et al. Certify sustainable aquaculture? Science 341, 1067–1068 (2013).
Little, D. C. et al. Sustainable intensification of aquaculture value chains between Asia and Europe: a framework for understanding impacts and challenges. Aquaculture 493, 338–354 (2018).
Henriksson, P. J. G., Belton, B., Jahan, K. M. & Rico, A. Measuring the potential for sustainable intensification of aquaculture in Bangladesh using Life Cycle Assessment. Proc. Natl Acad. Sci. USA 115, 2958–2963 (2018).
Godfray, H. C. J. & Garnett, T. Food security and sustainable intensification. Phil. Trans. R. Soc. B 369, 20120273 (2014).
Vernon, R. The product cycle hypothesis in a new international environment. Oxf. Bull. Econ. Stat. 41, 255–267 (1979).
Reardon, T. et al. Rapid transformation of food systems in developing regions: highlighting the role of agricultural research & innovations. Agric. Syst. 172, 47–59 (2019).
Belton, B., Bush, S. R. & Little, D. C. Not just for the wealthy: rethinking farmed fish consumption in the Global South. Glob. Food Secur. 16, 85–92 (2018).
Bush, S. R. & Oosterveer, P. Governing Sustainable Seafood (Routledge, 2019).
Ponte, S., Kelling, I., Jespersen, K. S. & Kruijssen, F. The Blue Revolution in Asia: upgrading and governance in aquaculture value chains. World Dev. 64, 52–64 (2014).
Little, D. C. et al. Whitefish wars: Pangasius, politics and consumer confusion in Europe. Mar. Policy 36, 738–745 (2012).
Pitcher, T. J. & Lam, M. E. Fish commoditization and the historical origins of catching fish for profit. Marit. Stud. 14, 2 (2015).
Bavinck, M. in Engineering Earth: The Impacts of Megaengineering Projects (ed. Brunn, S. D.) 257–274 (Springer, 2011).
Holm, P. World War II and the “Great Acceleration” of North Atlantic fisheries. Glob. Environ. 5, 66–91 (2012).
Kurlansky, M. Cod: A Biography of the Fish that Changed the World (Penguin Books, 1998).
Josephson, P. R. The Ocean’s Hot Dog: the development of the fish stick. Technol. Cult. 49, 41–61 (2008).
Mansfield, B. in Global Political Ecology (eds Peet, R. et al.) 84–99 (Routledge, 2011).
Bailey, C. The political economy of fisheries development in the third world. Agric. Hum. Values 5, 35–48 (1988).
McDorman, T. L. The 1991 U.S.-Mexico GATT Panel Report on Tuna and Dolphin: implications for trade and environment conflicts. North Carolina J. Int. Law Commercial Regulation 17, 461–488 (1992).
Pauly, D., Christensen, V., Dalsgaard, J., Froese, R. & Torres, T. Fishing down marine food webs. Science 279, 860–863 (1998).
Myers, R. A. & Worm, B. Rapid worldwide depletion of predatory fish communities. Nature 423, 280–283 (2003).
Hutchings, J. A. & Reynolds, J. D. Marine fish population collapses: consequences for recovery and extinction risk. BioScience 54, 297–309 (2004).
Pusceddu, A. et al. Chronic and intensive bottom trawling impairs deep-sea biodiversity and ecosystem functioning. Proc. Natl Acad. Sci. USA 111, 8816–8866 (2014).
Hilborn, R. et al. Institutions, incentives and the future of fisheries. Phil. Trans. R. Soc. B 360, 47–57 (2005).
Reardon, T. & Timmer, P. C. The economics of the food system revolution. Annu. Rev. Resour. Econ. 4, 225–264 (2012).
Alder, J. & Sumaila, U. R. Western Africa: a fish basket of Europe past and present. J. Environ. Dev. 13, 156–178 (2004).
Petersen, L. Governance of the South Pacific Tuna Fishery. Pac. Econ. Bull. 16, 63–76 (2001).
Swartz, W., Sumaila, U. R., Watson, R. & Pauly, D. Sourcing seafood for the three major markets: the EU, Japan and the USA. Mar. Policy. 34, 1366–1373 (2010).
Asche, F. & Smith, M. D. Viewpoint: induced innovation in fisheries and aquaculture. Food Policy 76, 1–7 (2018).
Stickney, R. R. & Treece, G. D. in Aquaculture Production Systems (ed. Tidwell, J. H.) 15–50 (Wiley Blackwell, 2012).
Hall, D. Explaining the diversity of Southeast Asian shrimp aquaculture. J. Agrar. Change 4, 315–335 (2004).
Belton, B. & Little, D. C. Immanent and interventionist inland Asian aquaculture development and its outcomes. Dev. Policy Rev. 29, 459–484 (2011).
Bush, S., Belton, B., Little, D. C. & Islam, M. S. Emerging trends in aquaculture value chain research. Aquaculture 498, 428–434 (2019).
Hernandez, R. et al. The “Quiet Revolution” in the aquaculture value chain in Bangladesh. Aquaculture 493, 456–468 (2018).
Popkin, B. M. & Reardon, T. Obesity and the food system transformation in Latin America. Obes. Rev. 19, 1028–1064 (2018).
Daw, T. & Gray, T. Fisheries science and sustainability in international policy: a study of failure in the European Union’s Common Fisheries Policy. Mar. Policy 29, 189–197 (2005).
Asche, F. et al. Three pillars of sustainability in fisheries. Proc. Natl Acad. Sci. USA 115, 11221–11225 (2018).
Council Regulation (EC) No 1005/2008 of 29 September 2008 establishing a Community system to prevent, deter and eliminate illegal, unreported and unregulated fishing (European Commission, 2008); https://go.nature.com/2VTT6iS
Marschke, M. & Vandergeest, P. Slavery scandals: unpacking labour challenges and policy responses within the off-shore fisheries sector. Mar. Policy 68, 39–46 (2016).
Naylor, R. L. et al. Nature’s subsidies to shrimp and salmon farming. Science 282, 883–884 (1998).
Naylor, R. L. et al. Effect of aquaculture on world fish supplies. Nature 405, 1017–1024 (2000).
Barbier, E. B. Valuing the environment as input: review of applications to mangrove-fishery linkages. Ecol. Econ. 35, 47–61 (2000).
Krkosek, M., Lewis, M. A., Morton, A., Frazer, N. L. & Volpe, J. P. Epizootics of wild fish induced by farm fish. Proc. Natl Acad. Sci. USA 103, 15506–15510 (2006).
Ford, J. S. & Myers, R. A. A global assessment of salmon aquaculture impacts on wild salmonids. PLoS Biol. 6, e33 (2008).
De Silva, S. S., Nguyen, T. T. T., Turchini, G. M., Amarasinghe, U. S. & Abery, N. W. Alien species in aquaculture and biodiversity: a paradox in food production. Ambio 38, 24–29 (2009).
Naylor, R. et al. Fugitive salmon: assessing risks from aquaculture escapes. BioScience 55, 427–437 (2005).
Cabello, F. C. Heavy use of prophylactic antibiotics in aquaculture: a growing problem for human and animal health and for the environment. Environ. Microbiol. 8, 1137–1144 (2006).
Anh, P. T., Kroeze, C., Bush, S. R. & Mol, A. P. J. Water pollution by intensive brackish shrimp farming in south-east Vietnam: causes and option for control. Agric. Water Manage. 97, 872–882 (2010).
Naylor, R. et al. Feeding aquaculture in an era of finite resources. Proc. Natl Acad. Sci. USA 106, 15103–15110 (2009).
Gentry, R. R. et al. Mapping the global potential for marine aquaculture. Nat. Ecol. Evol. 1, 1317–1324 (2017).
Roheim, C. A., Bush, S. R., Asche, F., Sanchirico, J. N. & Uchida, H. Evolution and future of the sustainable seafood market. Nat. Sustain. 1, 392–398 (2018).
Jacquet, J. et al. Seafood stewardship in crisis. Nature 467, 28–29 (2010).
Swinnen, J., Deconinck, K., Vandemoortele, T. & Vandeplas, A. Quality Standards, Value Chains, and International Development: Economic and Political Theory (Cambridge Univ. Press, 2015).
Bush, S. R. et al. Inclusive environmental performance through ‘beyond-farm’ aquaculture governance. Curr. Opin. Environ. Sustain. 41, 49–55 (2019).
Waite, R. et al. Improving Productivity and Environmental Performance of Aquaculture Working Paper, Installment 5 of Creating a Sustainable Food Future (World Resources Institute, 2014).
Wang, Z., Mao, Y. & Gale, F. Chinese consumer demand for food safety attributes in milk products. Food Policy 33, 27–36 (2008).
Wang, Q. et al. Paradigm changes in freshwater aquaculture practices in China: moving towards achieving environmental integrity and sustainability. Ambio 47, 410–426 (2017).
Samerwong, P. et al. Implications of multiple national certification schemes for shrimp aquaculture in Thailand. Aquaculture 493, 319–327 (2018).
Kobayashi, M. et al. Fish to 2030: the role and opportunity for aquaculture. Aquacult. Econ. Manag. 19, 282–300 (2015).
Traub, L., Yeboah, F. K., Meyer, F. & Jayne, T. S. in Beyond a Middle Income Africa: Transforming African economies for sustained growth with rising employment and incomes ReSAKSS Annual Trends and Outlook Report (eds Badiane, O. & Makombe, T.) Ch. 3 (International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI), 2015).
Stern, D. I. The rise and fall of the environmental Kuznets Curve. World Dev. 32, 1419–1439 (2004).
Bush, S. R. et al. in Routledge Handbook of Southeast Asian Development (eds McGregor, A. et al.) 316–329 (Routledge, 2018).
Doumbouya, A. et al. Assessing the effectiveness of monitoring control and surveillance of illegal fishing: the case of West Africa. Front. Mar. Sci. 4, 50 (2017).
O’Neill, F. G. et al. in The European Landing Obligation (eds Uhlmann, S. S. et al.) 279–296 (Springer Open, 2019).
Voluntary Guidelines for Securing Sustainable Small-Scale Fisheries in the Context of Food Security and Poverty Eradication (Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations, 2015).
Jardine, S. L., Lin, C.-Y. C. & Sanchirico, J. N. Measuring benefits from a marketing cooperative in the Copper River Fishery. Am. J. Agric. Econ. 96, 1084–1101 (2014).
McGrath, K. P., Pelletier, N. L. & Tyedmers, P. H. Life cycle assessment of a novel closed-containment salmon aquaculture technology. Environ. Sci. Technol. 49, 5628–5636 (2015).
Teletchea, F. & Fontaine, P. Levels of domestication in fish: implications for the sustainable future of aquaculture. Fish Fish. 15, 181–195 (2012).
Gjedrem, T., Robinson, N. & Rye, M. The importance of selective breeding in aquaculture to meet future demands for animal protein: a review. Aquaculture 350–353, 117–129 (2012).
Gratacap, R. L., Wargelius, A., Edvardsen, R. B. & Houston, R. D. Potential of genome editing to improve aquaculture breeding and production. Trends Genet. 35, 672–684 (2019).
Parodi, A. et al. The potential of future foods for sustainable and healthy diets. Nat. Sustain. 1, 782–789 (2018).
Ytresøyl, T., Synnøve, T. & Asgard, T. Utilisation of feed resources in production of Atlantic salmon (Salmo salar) in Norway. Aquaculture 448, 365–374 (2015).
Malcorps, W. et al. The sustainability conundrum of fishmeal substitution by plant ingredients in shrimp feeds. Sustainability 11, 1212 (2019).
Føre, M. et al. Precision fish farming: a new framework to improve production in aquaculture. Biosyst. Eng. 173, 176–193 (2018).
Belton, B. et al. The emerging “Quiet Revolution” in Myanmar’s aquaculture value chain. Aquaculture 493, 384–394 (2018).
Gona, A. et al. The Rapid Transformation of the Fish Value Chain in Nigeria: Evidence from Kebbi State FSP Research Paper 115 (Michigan State University: Feed the Future Innovation Lab for Food Security Policy, 2018).
Africa Agriculture Status Report: The Hidden Middle: A Quiet Revolution in the Private Sector Driving Agricultural Transformation. Nairobi, Kenya: Alliance for a Green Revolution in Africa (AGRA, 2019).
Vandergeest, P. Certification and communities: alternatives for regulating the environmental and social impacts of shrimp farming. World Dev. 35, 1152–1171 (2007).
Wakamatsu, M. & Wakamatsu, H. The certification of small-scale fisheries. Mar. Policy 77, 97–103 (2017).
Lecomte, M., Rochette, J., Lapayre, R. & Lauranns, Y. Tuna: Fish and fisheries, markets and sustainability (Développement Durable & Relations Internationales, 2017).
Thai Union Annual Report 2018 (Thai Union Group Public Company Limited, 2018).
Washington, S. & Ababouch, L. Private Standards and Certification in Fisheries and Aquaculture: Current Practice and Emerging Issues FAO Fisheries and Aquaculture Technical Paper No. 553 (Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations, 2011).
Vogel, D. Trading Up: Consumer and Environmental Regulation in a Global Economy (Harvard Univ. Press, 1995).
Hosch, G. & Blaha, F. Seafood Traceability for Fisheries Compliance: Country Level Support for Catch Documentation Schemes FAO Fisheries and Aquaculture Technical Paper 619 (Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations, 2017).
Sun, Y. & van der Ven, H. Swimming in their own direction: explaining domestic variation in homegrown sustainability governance for aquaculture in Asia. Ecol. Econ. 167, 106445 (2020).
Zilberman, D. The economics of sustainable development. Am. J. Agric. Econ. 96, 385–396 (2013).
Asche, F., Guttormsen, A. G. & Tveterås, R. Environmental problems, productivity and innovations in Norwegian salmon aquaculture. Aquacult. Econ. Manag. 3, 19–29 (1999).
Callaway, E. CRISPR plants now subject to tough GM laws in European Union. Nature 560, 16 (2018).
Newton, R., Telfer, T. & Little, D. C. Perspectives on the utilisation of aquaculture coproduct in Europe and Asia: prospects for value addition and improved resource efficiency. Crit. Rev. Food Sci. Nutr. 54, 495–510 (2014).
Zilberman, D., Lu, L. & Reardon, T. Innovation-induced food supply chain design. Food Policy 83, 289–297 (2019).
Schmithüsen, F. J. Multifunctional forestry practices as a land use strategy to meet increasing private and public demands in modern societies. J. For. Sci. 53, 290–298 (2007).
The authors declare no competing interests.
Publisher’s note Springer Nature remains neutral with regard to jurisdictional claims in published maps and institutional affiliations.
About this article
Cite this article
Belton, B., Reardon, T. & Zilberman, D. Sustainable commoditization of seafood. Nat Sustain (2020). https://doi.org/10.1038/s41893-020-0540-7
Global Food Security (2020)