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Special Issue "Seafood Sustainability"

A special issue of Sustainability (ISSN 2071-1050). This special issue belongs to the section "Sustainable Use of the Environment and Resources".

Deadline for manuscript submissions: 31 March 2018

Special Issue Editors

Guest Editor
Dr. Naresh C. Pradhan

New England Fishery Management Council, Newburyport, Massachusetts, USA
Interests: Natural Resource Economics; Marine Fisheries Management; Business; Public Policy
Co-Guest Editor
Dr. Stephen M. Stohs

NOAA Fisheries, Southwest Fisheries Science Center, La Jolla, California, USA
Interests: Marine Fisheries Economics; Estimation of Rare Event Phenomena; Economic Costs of Regulation
Co-Guest Editor
Dr. Junning Cai

Fisheries and Aquaculture Department, Food and Agricultural Organization, Rome, Italy

Special Issue Information

Dear Colleagues,

Seafood has long been an important source of income in many coastal communities and a staple food in nations around the world. Seafood demand is ever growing over a widening share of populations in modern economies due to its nutritional and health benefits. Both aggregate and per capita consumption of seafood have steadily increased along with growing affluence in many developing nations. To keep pace with consumption demand, seafood production has increased significantly over time through rapid growth in aquaculture production, innovation in more efficient fishing and processing technologies, and through investment in larger production capacity. Markets for seafood have expanded during the past century, as consumer preferences have changed with increasing awareness of the benefits from seafood and more choice of fish species and products. New developments in international trade, investing environment, marketing, supply chains, information technology, transportation, etc., have made seafood accessible and affordable to an increasing share of the global population.

Solid growth in the seafood sector has given rise to challenges in the management and conservation of fishery resources. Wild capture fisheries continue to provide the majority of seafood supply. In the past, many fishing operations faced sustainability issues, primarily due to overfishing and associated bycatch. For several reasons, various fisheries around the world have collapsed or face the brink of collapse, while others which previously collapsed are slowly rebuilding or operating significantly below their historical highs. Overfishing is typically addressed with single-species assessments which provide the basis for output and effort control measures such as catch limits, harvest quota, gear types, rights-based management or catch shares, limited access, limits on fishing days, temporal, or spatial, including the establishment of marine sanctuaries or reserves. Unilateral management measures are appropriate to regulate fishing pressure in domestic waters, while bilateral and multilateral agreements among fishing nations, are necessary to manage transboundary fisheries that are more difficult to negotiate. In the absence of cooperative and binding or enforceable agreements, seafood sustainability may be at considerable risk when some nations race for high historical catches to secure larger share of harvest quotas in high seas fisheries. The same holds true for fishermen in domestic fisheries as well as in sharing a limited fishing ground between neighboring countries.

Bycatch of undesirable species including juvenile fish, compounded in some cases by information asymmetries, where fishermen have different information about bycatch than regulators, has been a pressing issue over the last few decades. Regulatory authorities have been unable to adequately and uniformly address bycatch externalities across regions or jurisdictions. Efforts have been made to manage these externalities with better harvesting techniques and monitoring mechanisms, but in many fisheries, regulatory measures intended to limit bycatch have resulted in underutilization of fishery resources even when stocks are healthy, or a transfer of demand and associated fishing effort to relatively less regulated fisheries. Sustainability issues coupled with uncertainties associated with fisheries operations caused many participants to exit from a fishery for other endeavors. Other aspects of seafood sustainability such as the role of smart technologies, social media, or consumer trends in seafood consumption including utilization of underutilized fish species, seafood certifications, etc., can be significant contributors to seafood sustainability. Better management and technological measures for efficient harvesting to overcome overfishing and reduce bycatch will remain of paramount importance. Bilateral and multilateral cooperation will be very important to achieving global seafood sustainability through better management of transboundary fishery resources.

The science behind intricate interrelationships and interdependencies among various living organisms in a fishery is yet to be fully understood. An ecosystem-based fisheries management approach has been proposed in recent decades as a panacea for ecological and conservation concerns, but such developments have been limited to theoretical discussion with few if any pragmatic commercial fisheries management outcomes to date. Ecosystem component species considered as inedible for human consumption in some jurisdictions may have been used in other jurisdictions as intermediate goods in the production of other terrestrial sources of protein. Such practice might have resulted in depletion of marine resources. More recently the seafood sector has faced numerous emerging issues such as anthropogenic sea warming, acidification, hypoxia, marine debris and chemical pollution, etc., impacting the quality and abundance of fish in the fishing ground. Recent reports have documented changes to the distribution of fishes and degradation of marine habitat. Illegal, unreported, and unregulated (IUU) fishing and seafood fraud also remain big challenges. Some nations have attempted to address the IUU issue, but the success of these efforts largely depends on international cooperation by fishing entities and national authorities.

The government’s role in fisheries along with responsibility and accountability of other stakeholders has been increasingly important in the growth and stability of seafood supply. What was once thought of as the ocean’s unlimited bounty may no longer be a realistic case for many fisheries in the foreseeable future, as our ocean’s vulnerability to complex, multi-faceted externalities becomes increasingly apparent. Many current challenges with seafood are not new, but they remain to be satisfactorily resolved. Additional challenges to sustainability can be expected in the foreseeable future, given ever increasing global seafood demand.

Aquaculture has recently been one of the fastest growing seafood production sector, now contributing about 44 percent of all seafood. However, the impressive aquaculture growth for the world as a whole primarily reflects rapid aquaculture development only in few Asian countries. Aquaculture is still an underutilized technology contributing a mere fraction of domestic seafood production in many other nations. Identifying major limiting factors is a critical issue for these countries as they develop their underexploited potential in aquaculture. Countries with an advanced aquaculture sector face various problems such as diseases, including the evolution of disease-resistant organisms also affecting wild fish, environmental degradation, climate change impacts on aquaculture, increasingly stringent regulations, etc. A key issue for them is how to maintain sustainable aquaculture development in the face of these challenges. Since aquaculture intensively utilizes vast amount of land, water, energy and labor, the competition for these fixed or less elastic resources with other economic sectors might become stiffer with further aquaculture development. While some regions or countries might have comparative advantages over others, increasing competition for factors of production along with inflationary pressures and other unforeseen issues might impede the expansion of aquaculture to its full potential.

In this special edition on seafood sustainability, we will focus on harvesting and consumption issues surrounding sustainable marine fisheries. We seek papers that will identify successful drivers of sustainable seafood through the dynamic oceanographic, biological, ecological, technological, economic, social, management and regulatory approaches. Besides addressing traditional capture fisheries issues such as overfishing or bycatch, we will consider responses to emerging issues such as climate impacts on fisheries. We further seek papers focusing on environment-friendly aquaculture technologies and practices, aquaculture adaption to climate changes, sustainable aquaculture role in nutrition, food security and employment, social licensing and the public image of aquaculture, policy planning and governance in aquaculture development, and other sustainable aquaculture topics. Lessons from successes and failures will pave a path for future seafood sustainability. An optimal combination of seafood from marine and aquaculture sources will eventually be needed to satisfy ever increasing seafood demand while utilizing and conserving both terrestrial and ocean resources. Innovative practices in managing, conserving, developing or rebuilding marine fishery resources and aquaculture production sustainably in a dynamic environment ultimately offer the potential to optimize the contribution of seafood production to societal welfare. This endeavor will require a strong public-private partnership between government agencies, NGOs and private stakeholders.

Dr. Naresh C. Pradhan
Dr. Stephen M. Stohs
Dr. Junning Cai
Guest Editors

Manuscript Submission Information

Manuscripts should be submitted online at www.mdpi.com by registering and logging in to this website. Once you are registered, click here to go to the submission form. Manuscripts can be submitted until the deadline. All papers will be peer-reviewed. Accepted papers will be published continuously in the journal (as soon as accepted) and will be listed together on the special issue website. Research articles, review articles as well as short communications are invited. For planned papers, a title and short abstract (about 100 words) can be sent to the Editorial Office for announcement on this website.

Submitted manuscripts should not have been published previously, nor be under consideration for publication elsewhere (except conference proceedings papers). All manuscripts are thoroughly refereed through a single-blind peer-review process. A guide for authors and other relevant information for submission of manuscripts is available on the Instructions for Authors page. Sustainability is an international peer-reviewed open access monthly journal published by MDPI.

Please visit the Instructions for Authors page before submitting a manuscript. The Article Processing Charge (APC) for publication in this open access journal is 1400 CHF (Swiss Francs). Submitted papers should be well formatted and use good English. Authors may use MDPI's English editing service prior to publication or during author revisions.


  • Seafood Sustainability
  • Marine Fisheries and Aquaculture Production
  • Sustainable Fisheries and Aquaculture Management
  • Seafood Production, Consumption Demand and Supply Chains
  • Environment-Friendly Aquaculture Technologies and Practices
  • Externalities and Adaptation to Climate Changes
  • Ocean and Aquaculture Governance
  • Domestic and International Fisheries
  • International Trade

Published Papers (1 paper)

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Open AccessArticle The Sustainable Seafood Movement Is a Governance Concert, with the Audience Playing a Key Role
Sustainability 2018, 10(1), 180; doi:10.3390/su10010180
Received: 3 November 2017 / Revised: 13 December 2017 / Accepted: 4 January 2018 / Published: 12 January 2018
Cited by 1 | PDF Full-text (1572 KB) | HTML Full-text | XML Full-text
Private standards, including ecolabels, have been posed as a governance solution for the global fisheries crisis. The conventional logic is that ecolabels meet consumer demand for certified “sustainable” seafood, with “good” players rewarded with price premiums or market share and “bad” players punished
[...] Read more.
Private standards, including ecolabels, have been posed as a governance solution for the global fisheries crisis. The conventional logic is that ecolabels meet consumer demand for certified “sustainable” seafood, with “good” players rewarded with price premiums or market share and “bad” players punished by reduced sales. Empirically, however, in the markets where ecolabeling has taken hold, retailers and brands—rather than consumers—are demanding sustainable sourcing, to build and protect their reputation. The aim of this paper is to devise a more accurate logic for understanding the sustainable seafood movement, using a qualitative literature review and reflection on our previous research. We find that replacing the consumer-driven logic with a retailer/brand-driven logic does not go far enough in making research into the sustainable seafood movement more useful. Governance is a “concert” and cannot be adequately explained through individual actor groups. We propose a new logic going beyond consumer- or retailer/brand-driven models, and call on researchers to build on the partial pictures given by studies on prices and willingness-to-pay, investigating more fully the motivations of actors in the sustainable seafood movement, and considering audience beyond the direct consumption of the product in question. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Seafood Sustainability)

Figure 1

Planned Papers

The below list represents only planned manuscripts. Some of these manuscripts have not been received by the Editorial Office yet. Papers submitted to MDPI journals are subject to peer-review.

Title: The Sustainable Seafood Movement is a Governance Concert, with the Audience playing a Key Role
Author: Kate Barclay, Alice Miller
Abstract: Private standards, including ecolabels, have been posed as a governance solution for the global fisheries crisis. The conventional logic is that ecolabels meet consumer demand for certified ‘sustainable’ seafood, with ‘good’ players rewarded with price premiums or market share and ‘bad’ players punished by reduced sales. Empirically, however, in the markets where ecolabeling has taken hold retailers and brands – rather than consumers – are demanding sustainable sourcing, to build and protect their reputation. Much sustainable seafood research, however, continues to use methods such as willingness-to-pay surveys based on the logic of consumer demand. Replacing the consumer-driven logic with a retailer-driven logic does not go far enough, however, in making research into the sustainable seafood movement more useful. Governance is a ‘concert’ and cannot be adequately explained through individual actor groups. Moreover, green performances go beyond the prices and turnover of particular products and are aimed at improving brand reputation among consumers and other audiences. We propose a new logic going beyond consumer- or retailer/brand-driven models, and call on researchers to build on the partial pictures given by studies on prices and willingness-to-pay, investigating more fully the motivations of actors in the sustainable seafood movement, including the role of audience. What do the different actor groups want from their involvement in the sustainable seafood movement? Who are the audience(s) for performances of sustainability in seafood markets? How green do retailers and brands have to be to satisfy those audiences?

Title: Flame retardants and sustainability metrics for seafood at odds
Author: Andrea J. Noziglia, Joshua K. Abbott, Beth Polidoro, and Leah R. Gerber
Abstract: Current seafood consumption trends pose a substantial threat to many fish stocks. Chemical contaminants found in both wild-caught and farmed seafood also presents significant health risks to consumers. Flame retardant chemicals, used in textiles, upholstery, plastics, and other products, are of particular concern as they can be found in the marine and aquatic environment and permeate the tissues of seafood via multiple pathways. Pressures on many overfished stocks could be lessened by demonstrating to stakeholders that many unsustainable fish stocks are also unhealthy and mutually disadvantageous for both human consumers and the environment. To investigate the relationship between sustainable fisheries and flame retardant concentration in seafood, we assessed how metrics of fishery sustainability coincide with levels of halogenated flame retardants found in fish tissue. In contrast with past studies concerning other chemical contaminants, we found no strong alignment between fishery sustainability and flame retardant concentrations reported in fish caught between 2002 and 2013. However, because some of the same intrinsic biological traits which facilitate the uptake of chemicals also contribute to how species respond to fishing pressures, sustainability and flame retardant concentrations are components of the same complicated story. We found that large, long-lived species and species that dwell near the bottom substrate generally accumulate higher concentrations of flame retardants. In light of the nuanced relationship between ecological sustainability and public health, policy instruments to incentivize seafood consumption in more sustainable directions will need to draw upon motivational strategies aside from individual’s private health.

Title: Fisheries impacts as climate change drives marine species re-distribution
Author: Elena Ojea and Elena Fontán
Abstract: Global evidence on climate change impacts in the oceans is overwhelming and many studies show shifts in fish stocks distribution already happening. Impacts in species distribution together with changes in fish abundance and alterations in fish communities are among the most significant impacts expected from climate change in fish stocks. With fish stocks moving to deeper waters and higher latitudes, fisheries across the planet are unavoidably impacted in social and economic terms. However, little is known yet on the directions of socioeconomic impacts as well as the different implications of fish stocks re-distribution for fisheries. In this study we review the existing evidence on the impacts that distributional shifts pose to fisheries and discuss how important these socio-economic impacts are for the different regions and countries. We find that few evidence still exists but current illustrations allow to plan for adaptation measures that sustain and enhance fishing livelihoods under climate change.

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