How Fish Are Like Coffee: the Changes Coming to Your Seafood Plate

National Geographic
  • National Geographic
  • Monica Jain, August 23, 2017

Over the past five years, as I’ve built the Fish 2.0 business competition, I’ve seen an overwhelming number of creative ideas bubbling up—with highly qualified entrepreneurial teams behind them. Their innovations, combined with powerful social and environmental forces, are creating a new world both above and below the ocean’s surface.

I believe that by 2027, we won’t be gorging ourselves on shrimp. Or tuna. Or salmon. Not because they’ve disappeared from the oceans or we’re appalled by how they’re produced, but because we’re eating so many other delicious fish from land and sea — like porgy, dogfish, lionfish, barramundi, and others we’ve yet to meet.

I also believe that we’ll know exactly what fish we’re eating and where it comes from— so we can make confident choices based on nutrition and sustainability factors. Fishing communities will be healthier too: they’ll serve local as well as export markets, and new seafood products will boost their economic base. Unsustainable seafood just won’t sell: consumers will walk away from it the way they avoid foods with transfats today.

Historically, seafood has been a slow-to-change industry, characterized by a complex, opaque and often low-tech global supply chain. People assume that change will continue to plod along in bite-size pieces. But the pace has already picked up dramatically. Governments, big industry players, entrepreneurs and investors are focused on seafood sustainability like never before. Several drivers are kicking in at once.

  • We’re realizing that we’re going to run out of food if we don’t find alternative supplies and environmentally sound production methods. Seafood is a healthy, high-quality protein source. It tastes good and we can grow it sustainably.
  • People are more interested in where their seafood comes from and what’s in it. And they increasingly see quality and sustainability as linked product attributes — I hear this from seafood buyers all the time.
  • Emerging technologies that will clear up seafood’s murky supply chain or allow aquaculture to flourish are being developed by multiple players, big and small.
  • Investors are realizing that the seafood market is huge, and they’re seeking opportunities to make change in it. Feed for farm-raised fish alone is a multibillion-dollar opportunity.

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