Making our Markets Match our Ecosystems
This program is linked to our Symmetry Anchor
The Other EBFM: Designing Ecosystem-Based Fisheries Marketing Strategies to Complement Ecosystem-Based Fisheries Management
Traditionally, the species mix pursued by fisheries has been driven by market demand, and fishermen have fished for species consumers have paid the highest price for. But this cherry-picking pattern has had ripple effects in marine food webs, leading to ecosystem perturbations and unpredictable fisheries. Eating with the Ecosystem advocates flipping the causal chain around: instead of markets determining ecosystem structure, we think that ecosystem structure should drive markets.
We are working in partnership with researchers Dr. Jeremy Collie and Dr. Hiro Uchida at the University of Rhode Island to gain a better understanding of the matches and mismatches that exist between New England marine ecosystems and the seafood markets that our fisheries supply. In addition to understanding what disparities exist, this project will probe why they exist, and highlight opportunities for greater utilization of species whose market share is low relative to their ecological production (i.e. species that our ecosystems are producing a lot of, that we could be eating more of). Eating with the Ecosystem will use this information to create a science-based template for a better overall ecosystem-marketplace match for New England seafood, helping to balance our markets to our ecosystems, support local fisheries, and increase consumer awareness around wild seafood.
Phase I (January-October 2017): Ecological and bio-economic analyses will enable us to compare the relative proportion of each species' ecosystem production ("ecosystem share") with its proportion of landings ("market share").
Key informant interviews with people up and down the seafood supply chain will help us understand why mismatches exist, and what actions are needed to resolve them.
Phase II (May-October 2017): A citizen science project will engage 50+ New England seafood consumers. Citizen science participants will be given a list of local New England seafood species they will be tasked with searching for, purchasing, preparing, and eating. This exercise will help determine the availability of local species in the marketplace and help shed light on the role of consumer preferences in driving disparities between ecosystem production and market share for certain species. This information will also identifying opportunities for growth for those species that are underrepresented in the marketplace but enjoyed by consumers.
Phase III (November 2017-August 2018): Outreach and dissemination. Our findings will support creation of an ecosystem-market symmetry toolkit that seafood businesses throughout New England can employ. Through networking, conferences, reports, and public education, we will help make the notion of ecosystem-market symmetry a foundational principle for seafood marketing and food advocacy throughout the region, and a model for other regions. We'll also publish a cookbook!
Once complete, we will integrate this knowledge into seafood marketing and ecosystem management plans around the New England region. For example, view Eating with the Ecosystem's January 2016 recommendations on ecosystem-based marketing for the Rhode Island Food Strategy.