Developing Local Sustainable Seafood Markets: A Thai Example

Published date01 March 2016
Date01 March 2016
World Food Policy - Volume 2, Issue 2/Volume 3, Issue 1, Fall 2015/Spring 2016
Courtney KehoeA, Melissa MarschkeA, Wichitta UttamamuneeB, Jawanit
KittitornkoolB & Peter VandergeestC
Developing Local Sustainable Seafood Markets:
A ai Example
The sustainable seafood movement
began nearly two decades ago
in response to failing sheries
management and the subsequent
degradation of ocean ecologies and
sheries (Jacquet and Pauly 2007; Konefal
2013). Driven largely by nongovernmental
organizations (NGO), industry, and the
private sector, this movement sought
to ll a governance gap through the use
of market mechanisms like third-party
certication and ecolabeling. Under
ecolabeling schemes, retailers and food
companies seek to enhance brand value
through an association with sustainability.
Producers, in turn, may gain access
to particular markets for sustainably
harvested seafood, oen in the EU and in
North America. Although the eectiveness
of these mechanisms in terms of their
ability to increase ecological sustainability
remains unclear, ecolabeling continues
to grow in prominence (Lay 2012; Ponte
2012; Hallstein and Villas-Boas 2013).
A University of Ottawa, Canada
B Prince of Songkla University, ailand
CYork University, Canada
Increasing awareness of degradation in ocean ecologies and sheries has
made seafood a leading edge in the green marketing movement, with most
major buyers in the global North committing to buying seafood that has been
certied as sustainable. But what about the signicant and growing Asian
markets, where seafood has become a healthy and prestigious food choice
among wealthier consumers? Is it possible to develop a market for sustainably
produced seafood among Asian consumers motivated by civil and ecological
concerns? To address these questions our research traces how a ai Fisherfolk
Shop, located 4 hours to the south of Bangkok, has worked to develop an
alternative market for seafood caught by local, small-scale shers. Although we
nd that there is a mismatch between the volume of aquatic species that shers
catch, the ability of the Shop to process, store, and sell seafood, and consumer
demand, our analysis suggests that it is possible to create a market for small-
scale, sustainably sourced seafood in ailand.
Keywords: small-scale shers, sustainable seafood, conventions theory,
consumer awareness, Asian markets
doi: 10.18278/wfp.
Within the seafood sector, a
large number of competing management
practices and standards have developed—
some global, some national, and others
targeting specic species or shing
methods—with over 30 sheries ecolabels
in existence (Jacquet et al. 2010; Roheim
2009; Parkes et al. 2010). e dominant
global sustainability standard for wild
catch sheries is the Marine Stewardship
Council (MSC) (Blackmore and Norbury
2015): ~12 percent of world sheries
production is currently MSC certied,
although this market is generally limited
to species consumed in the North (Belton
and Bush 2014; Bush et al. 2013; Marine
Stewardship Council 2014). MSC has
single-handedly created “sustainable sh”
as a commodity that has been brought
into mainstream retail in North America
and Europe (i.e., Walmart and Carrefour)
(Ponte 2012; Vandergeest, Ponte, and Bush
2015). A signicant portion of producers
and consumers of lower level trophic
species, however, are being excluded from
such markets.
Asia, as a region, has substantial
potential in terms of marketing local
sustainable seafood: 84 percent of all people
employed in sheries and aquaculture live
in Asia (over 58 million people) (Food and
Agriculture Organization 2014). As a food
source, sh continues to be a major source
of animal protein and plays an especially
important role in many vulnerable rural
and coastal communities (Belton and
ilsted 2014). Fish also play a central
role in culture and cuisine in inland
and coastal regions, and the continuing
rise of an urban middle class is likely to
result in even higher levels of demand
for seafood products. Consumer surveys
in ailand show a substantial market
for organic foods and related labels, with
consumers willing to pay high premiums
(Posri, Shankar, and Chadbunchachai
2006; Roitner-Schobesberger et al. 2008;
Sangkumchaliang and Huang 2012a). e
question is whether this interest could be
extended to sustainable seafood, as the
motivation for organic consumers seems
to be primarily about health and safety.
Our article explores the possibility
of expanding coverage of sustainable
seafood through tapping national markets
and the degree to which such markets can
respond to the interests of small-scale
producers. e article traces how a ai
Fisherfolk Shop—referred to throughout
this article as the Shop—located 4 hours
south of Bangkok has worked to develop
an alternative market for seafood caught
by small-scale shers. is Shop is one
of a planned network of such shops
throughout ailand, marketing seafood
caught mainly from the Gulf of ailand.
We begin our article by analyzing the
type of aquatic species caught by local
shers that the Shop procures seafood
from, before turning to an assessment of
how the Shop more generally procures,
processes, and sells sustainable seafood.
We then consider why consumers are
willing to pay premium prices for local,
sustainably sourced seafood, drawing
on conventions theory to aid in our
analysis, and reect upon the challenges
facing shers, the Shop, and consumers
to ensure a t between supply, demand,
and sustainability. We argue that this
case provides evidence of how a local
sustainable seafood movement can meet
multiple demands and support a move
toward social-ecological sustainability in
the sheries.
World Food Policy

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