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Open Access Publications from the University of California

An Analysis of Global Fisheries and Factors Limiting Sustainable Practices for U.S. Seafood Imports


This paper assesses the sustainability practices of wild-caught fisheries by analyzing the Monterey Bay Aquarium Seafood Watch (SFW) ratings database. U.S. domestic fisheries are held to federal sustainability standards via the Magnuson-Stevens Fishery Conservation and Management Act, the Marine Mammal Protection Act, and the Endangered Species Act. However, since the United States imports 65-85% of its seafood, this study focuses on the foreign fisheries that export to the U.S.’s import-dependent seafood market. SFW assesses fisheries using performance-based metrics based on four criteria; Impacts on Species Under Assessment, Impacts on Other Capture Species, Management Effectiveness, and Impacts on the Habitat and Ecosystem. Over 65% of U.S. imported seafood evaluated by SFW is rated as “Avoid,” largely due to management ineffectiveness, bycatch, and the overarching issue of data deficiency. Through rating and criterion analysis, our study finds that bycatch and overall management are limiting for U.S. import fisheries. The forthcoming implementation of the Marine Mammal Protection Act import provisions has the potential result in improved bycatch management in foreign fisheries. However, there are risks of unwanted transfer effects if these fisheries are unsupported in their efforts to comply with the new regulations.

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