Press Release: Recently published research captures the potential of sustainable seafood commoditization under a new conceptual framework.

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9 June 2020 - PENANG, MALAYSIA - new research published in Nature Sustainability, introduces the concept of sustainable commoditization; a framework that integrates three pillars - sustainable intensification, supply chains, and policy and regulation -  which will play crucial roles in developing the seafood sector in the Global South.

Policy debates on seafood reflect a lagged pattern of supply chain and product cycle development across the Global North and Global South. Debates on role of seafood in the Global South tend to emphasize food security, whereas those in the Global North tend to emphasize sustainability. Sustainable commoditization offers a way to support seafood production in the Global South in a way that addresses food security needs and sustainability simultaneously.

The goal of sustainable intensification is to increase output and production efficiencies simultaneously while reducing negative externalities. But supply chain transformation and supporting policy and regulation and are necessary to create the conditions under which sustainable intensification can occur, and to ensure inclusive outcomes. Sustainable commoditization marries these three elements together and shows their interdependence.

Effective policy and regulation provide the basis for environmental, worker, and anti-trust protections and foster innovations that support sustainable intensification and supply chain transformation. Supply chain transformation reduces transaction costs and risks, facilitating the development and application of technical and institutional innovations that increase efficiencies and output, thereby lowering consumer prices for seafood. Supply chain growth is essential for inclusion, creating employment and opportunities for seafood producers and supporting enterprises, and linking them to consumers to ensure food security.

One of the paper’s authors, Dr. Ben Belton of WorldFish and Michigan State University, said: “Sustainable commoditization offers a framework for reconciling the need to produce more seafood with the need to reduce the impacts of seafood production. It shows that sustainable intensification cannot occur in a vacuum. We need to pay closer attention to the role of supply chains in facilitating food security and sustainability, and better understand how policies and regulations can foster inclusive and efficient supply chains”.

Dr. Thomas Reardon, one of the authors, and a Professor at the Michigan State University, Department of Agricultural, Food and Resource Economics, said: “At its essence, the marriage of commoditization and sustainability is that everybody recognize the importance of commoditization occurring to get cheaper, affordable seafood, but anticipate the sustainability issues that will arise and address them before they turn into problems.”

Professor David Zilberman, another of the paper’s authors, from University of California, Berkley said: “We use seafood as an example, but our analysis applies to other sectors. and the concept we introduce - ‘sustainable commoditization’, applies to any sector. This paper is part of our effort to steer economic analysis towards the analysis of multiple markets in the context of supply chains that implement change”

The paper ‘Sustainable Commoditization of Seafood is published in Nature Sustainability and is available here:



About WorldFish

WorldFish is an international, non-for-profit research organization that works to reduce hunger, malnutrition and poverty by improving fisheries and aquaculture. With a 40-year track record of leading-edge science, WorldFish generates research evidence and innovations to inform sustainable practices and inclusive policies that enable better livelihoods and healthier diets for millions of poor people, particularly women, who depend on fish for food, nutrition and income in the developing world. WorldFish is a member of CGIAR, the world’s largest global partnership on agriculture research and innovation for a food secure future. Headquartered in Penang, Malaysia and with regional offices across Africa, Asia and the Pacific, WorldFish leads the cross-disciplinary CGIAR Research Program (CRP) on Fish Agri-Food Systems (FISH). 

About CGIAR Research Program on Fish Agri-food Systems

Pursuing a research agenda through a network of multi-stakeholder partners, the CGIAR Research Program on Fish Agri-Food Systems (FISH) enhances the contributions of fisheries and aquaculture to reducing poverty and improving food security and nutrition. FISH is led by WorldFish, together with the ARC Centre of Excellence in Coral Reef Studies at James Cook University, Australia; the International Water Management Institute (IWMI); Natural Resources Institute (NRI) at the University of Greenwich, England and Wageningen University & Research (WUR), Netherlands. In regional contexts, the program partners closely with governments, NGOs, the private sector and research organizations to influence national, regional and global policy and development practice.  

About Michigan State University

Michigan State University has been advancing the common good with uncommon will for more than 160 years. One of the top research universities in the world, MSU pushes the boundaries of discovery and forges enduring partnerships to solve the most pressing global challenges while providing life-changing opportunities to a diverse and inclusive academic community through more than 200 programs of study in 17 degree-granting colleges.


  1. Fisheries in transition: Food and nutrition security implications for the global South,
    Belton, B.; Thilsted, S.H.
  2. Food system perspective on fisheries and aquaculture development in Asia,
    Tezzo, X.S.; Bush, S.R.; Oosterveer, P.; Belton, B.


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For more information or to request an interview: 

Press contact

Tana Lala-Pritchard
Director of Communications and Marketing

Science contact

Dr. Benjamin Belton
Senior Scientist, Value Chain and Nutrition