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Open Access Publications from the University of California

Can the United States have its fish and eat it too?


As domestic affluence increases, nations advocate for conservation policies to protect domestic biodiversity that often curtail natural resource production activities such as fishing. If concomitant consumption patterns remain unchanged, environmentally-conscious nations with high consumption rates such as the U.S. may only be distancing themselves from the negative environmental impacts associated with consuming resources and commodities produced elsewhere. This unintended displacement of ecosystem impacts, or leakage, associated with conservation policies has not been studied extensively in marine fisheries. This paper examines this topic, drawing on case studies to illustrate the ways in which unilateral marine conservation actions can shift ecosystem impacts elsewhere, as has been documented in land use interventions. The authors argue that the U.S. should recognize these distant ecological consequences and move toward greater self-sufficiency to protect its seafood security and minimize leakage as well as undertake efforts to reduce ecosystem impacts of foreign fisheries on which it relies. Six solutions are suggested for broadening the marine conservation and seafood consumption discussion to address U.S.-induced leakage.

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