Making Sense of Wild Seafood Supply Chains

A primer for resource managers, scientists, fishers, and other industry players seeking to harness the power of supply chains to ignite sustainable management in artisanal fisheries.

A supply chain is more than a set of links.

Though we call it a supply “chain,” few products in today’s global economy move along a simple, linear track. From clothing to cars to cod, modern supply chains resemble increasingly complex networks of people and companies that produce, transform, aggregate, separate, package, transport, store, ship, trade, sell, and serve goods. And few supply chains are more complex, convoluted, and cryptic than those involving seafood. 

The global and sprawling seafood supply chain

The seafood supply chain moves 158 million metric tons of fish, shellfish and other bounty from the sea each year. It creates livelihoods for tens of millions of people and feeds billions by tapping the world’s last major source of wild protein. But it also takes more than nature can replenish.

In recent decades, consumer demand has increased substantially. Overfishing—the result of poor management and enforcement, and compounded by illegal fishing and fraud—threatens the future of wild-caught seafood. While conservationists have traditionally focused on working with fishers and regulators to create more sustainable fisheries, the supply chain itself has great potential to encourage change on the water by supporting more responsible fishing and business practices. Realizing this potential, however, requires fisheries advocates to understand  how seafood supply chains work.

The Nature Conservancy (TNC) commissioned Future of Fish to produce a guide that gives conservation practitioners and artisanal fisheries managers the basic knowledge to interact with supply chains. Our analysis maps structures, barriers to engagement, and strategies for potential successful partnership. Our goal was to help conservationists better understand the challenges and complexities of working within wild seafood supply chains.

In this guide, you’ll find:

  • An overview of how chains work
  • Templates for understanding “types” of chains
  • Case studies
  • A glossary of supply chain terms