NEWS 2021-04-18

Policy advice for a sustainable seafood industry

Wild caught or farmed seafood can play a bigger role in the transformation for more sustainable and healthy diets worldwide. But unlike its counterparts on land, the seafood industry includes a vast variety of species and production methods. In order to alleviate the transformation, Beijer Institute researchers and colleagues  from Stockholm Resilience Centre and RISE Research Institutes of Sweden, have produced a series of policy briefs, providing clear guidance and advice to authorities, companies and consumers on actions that increase sustainable and healthy seafood consumption. The briefs are in Swedish and focus largely on Swedish conditions.


Swedes eat more seafood than both the global and European average with 26 kilos per year per person, however, the Swedish food agency still recommends an increase. The five policy briefs are produced within the research project Seawin, funded by the Swedish research council Formas, which aim is specifically to give new insights to pathways towards the combined goal of improved human health and environmental sustainability with regards to seafood consumption and production. Seawin is a transdisciplinary project with members from a range of academic institutions, retailers, authorities and NGOs.

“We hope these briefs will provide a basic understanding about rather complex issues related to both production and consumption and show opportunities for steering the industry towards sustainability”, says Beijer Institute researcher Max Troell.

Encouraging more variety

In the first brief the team gives an overview of what sustainable seafood is and how sustainable the most consumed species in Sweden are. Norwegian farmed salmon is by far the most popular, followed by prawns, then herring and mackerel, but increasing consumption of imported seafood mainly farmed in Asia and Europe raise concerns on the effects of the overall sustainability. Recommendations include measures to increase the production and intake of less known species, not least such that are more nutritious, than say prawns, and indigenous to Sweden, and to develop new products that can tempt consumers try new species like mussels, algae or carp.

Highlighting health issues and fighting antibiotic resistance

The following two briefs focus on different angles of sustainability and health, such as comparing species based on their combined nutritional value and effects on climate and environment, and what role transportation play for the sustainability value. The fourth brief looks at tools for helping consumers, both individuals and organisations, to make the right choices and provide advice for how to expand and make better use of this toolbox. Lastly, brief five uncovers the reasons for overuse of antibiotics in aquaculture, which is still a big problem in many sectors, and its connections to antibiotic resistance, which is a worldwide threat to human health and the foundations of modern medicine. Lead author Max Troell stresses the need for education:

“Access to information is still a huge challenge in many parts of the world – related to both making correct diagnosis as well as proper use of antibiotics. Where sufficient knowledge exists, regulations need to be strengthened and implemented to countercheck misuse.”

Read the policy briefs