Research Article: Global seafood consumption footprint

Date Published: May 29, 2018

Publisher: Springer Netherlands

Author(s): Jordi Guillen, Fabrizio Natale, Natacha Carvalho, John Casey, Johann Hofherr, Jean-Noël Druon, Gianluca Fiore, Maurizio Gibin, Antonella Zanzi, Jann Th. Martinsohn.


To ensure food security and nutritional quality for a growing world population in the face of climate change, stagnant capture fisheries production, increasing aquaculture production and competition for natural resources, countries must be accountable for what they consume rather than what they produce. To investigate the sustainability of seafood consumption, we propose a methodology to examine the impact of seafood supply chains across national boundaries: the seafood consumption footprint. The seafood consumption footprint is expressed as the biomass of domestic and imported seafood production required to satisfy national seafood consumption, and is estimated using a multi-regional input output model. Thus, we reconstruct for the first time the global fish biomass flows in national supply chains to estimate consumption footprints at the global, country and sector levels (capture fisheries, aquaculture, distribution and processing, and reduction into fishmeal and fish oil) taking into account the biomass supply from beyond national borders.

Partial Text

Over the past 50 years, annual global consumption of seafood1 products per capita has more than doubled, from almost 10 kg in 1960 to over 20 kg in 2014 (FAO 2016b). Seafood protein represents an essential nutritional component in many countries, especially where total protein intake levels are low. In 2013, seafood provided more than 3.1 billion people with at least 20 % of their intake of animal protein (FAO 2016b). Thus, capture fisheries and aquaculture make vital contributions to food security as a direct source of protein, micronutrients and indispensable fatty acids, but also indirectly via employment income for food purchases (Duarte et al. 2009; Godfray et al. 2010; Garcia and Rosenberg 2010; Kawarazuka and Béné 2010; Smith et al. 2010a).

The core of MRIO models comprises matrices of technical coefficients describing inter-industrial flows in the economy of single countries and matrices of trade coefficients linking national economies to the rest of the world. Available I/O and MRIO tables do not have a sufficient level of sectoral disaggregation. Thus, we had to reconstruct and calibrate the basic technical coefficients and trade matrixes for our MRIO model. Such coefficients define flows of seafood biomass across the four main sectors of aquaculture, capture fisheries, seafood distribution and processing, and the fishmeal industry in individual countries and through worldwide trade. Our MRIO model has been developed in R (R Core Team 2014).

Sustainability of seafood supply is often only assessed at the national level and generally focuses on whether the production supply from the capture fisheries and aquaculture sectors is sustainable in the long-term, taking into account biological, ecological, social and economic objectives. However, many nations rely on imports to meet national demands for seafood products. Hence, seafood sustainability assessments need to take account of domestic production and net imports which are driven by national consumption demands. Therefore, it is also important to know whether imported seafood originates from sustainable sources. Furthermore, it is important to understand the dynamics of seafood production and trade flows at a global scale in order to assess food and income security issues.

In this study, we advocate that the sustainability of the global seafood supply is primarily determined by the collective consumption demands of different nations. Hence, when assessing the relative national impacts on such sustainability, the domestic consumption of seafood as opposed to the domestic production, is the most suitable measure of the extent to which each nation should be held accountable. We therefore propose the “seafood consumption footprint”, which expresses domestic seafood consumption in terms of the biomass (domestic and imported) derived from the different seafood production and consumption sectors using a multi-regional input–output model. Our reconstruction of the global seafood biomass flows provides, for the first time, the proportions of national consumption originating from domestic production and from international trade by sector.




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