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Open Access Publications from the University of California

Follow Your Fish: Traceability Case Studies of American Caught Seafood


The United States is home to some of the most sustainably-managed fisheries in the world, but a surprisingly small number of Americans eat seafood that originated in U.S. waters. An average of 90% of the seafood consumed by Americans is imported. At the same time, the U.S. has become the sixth largest supplier of seafood in the world. The goal of this project is to reveal the supply chains of domestic species in order to better understand why more of our domestic seafood isn’t kept at home. Using an ocean-to-table model, we traced three species of iconic American-caught seafood that have particularly interesting supply chains: American lobster (Homarus americanus), California market squid (Doryteuthis opalescens), and California spiny lobster (Panulirus interruptus). By compiling available landing and export data for these fisheries, and by interviewing individuals involved in each step of the supply chain, we increased the transparency of these three seafood supply chains and help reconnect consumers with their seafood. We found that most of the locally-caught CA market squid is exported abroad, but a small portion comes back to the U.S. for local consumption after being processed in China. Both lobster species are exported overseas. Exports to China continue to increase because they are highly coveted by an increasing middle class.

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