Abstract

This article situates seafood in the larger intersection between global environmental governance and the food system. Drawing inspiration from the food regimes approach, we trace the historical unfolding of the seafood system and its management between the 1930s and the 2010s. In doing so, we bridge global environmental politics research that has studied either the politics of fisheries management or seafood sustainability governance, and we bring seafood and the fisheries crisis into food regimes scholarship. Our findings reveal that the seafood system has remained firmly dependent on the historical institutions of national seafood production systems and, particularly, on the state-based regulatory regimes that they promulgated in support of national economic and geopolitical interests. As such, seafood systems contribute to a broader, historicized understanding of the hybrid global environmental governance of food systems in which nonstate actors depend heavily upon, and in fact call for the strengthening of, state-based institutions. Our findings reveal that the contemporary private ordering of seafood governance solidifies the centrality of state-based institutions in the struggle for “sustainable” seafood and enables the continued expansionary, volume-driven extractivist logics that produced the fisheries crisis in the first place.

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