Global Fisheries: The Emergence of a Sustainable Seafood Movement

By William Barnett, Pamela Matson, Julia Novy-Hildesley, Julia G. Mason, Alana F. Springer
2016 | Case No. SI141 | Length 25 pgs.

Faced with declining fisheries and ineffective government solutions, environmental organizations turned to market solutions in the mid-1990s to promote sustainable seafood. Broad-reaching, innovative leaders used a combination of consumer education efforts and corporate partnerships to transform attitudes and actions about sustainable seafood throughout the supply chain.

This case tracks the rise of the sustainable seafood movement, focusing on efforts by organizations in the United States and Europe, while recognizing the movement’s global scale. It explores how leaders within philanthropic foundations, non-governmental organizations, and business found creative strategies to mobilize consumers, forge novel partnerships, and bring together diverse actors around a common goal: sustainable seafood.  The result of these inter-sector efforts was system-wide change in the way seafood was harvested, bought, sold, and consumed worldwide.  

Despite the successes of the sustainable seafood movement, challenges remain.  Most pressing are the needs to further reform international fishing policy, incorporate social concerns into sustainable seafood certification standards, and ensure the benefits of the sustainable seafood movement ultimately reach producers on the water and restore marine ecosystems and fisheries populations.  The case ends with optimistic advice from current leaders in the movement regarding potential ways forward as well as leadership traits needed to ensure the sustainable seafood movement retains its momentum in the future.

Learning Objective

This case highlights the skills, attributes, and decision-making abilities of transformative leaders, using the sustainable seafood movement as an example of the system-level change these leaders can achieve. Students are encouraged to analyze how leaders catalyzed transformations in five capital assets: natural capital, human capital, manufactured capital, social capital, and knowledge capital. Students may also examine the interplay between the capital assets by exploring how they influence one another throughout the development of the sustainable seafood movement.
This material is available for download at no charge. Download