The Multiple Meanings of Fish

Rowman & Littlefield Publishers
Publication Type:
Sustaining Seas Oceanic Space and the Politics of Care, 2020, pp. 75-86
Issue Date:
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In Australia, fisheries management jurisdictions at the state and federal level regulate fisheries according to sustainability objectives contained in legislation and related formal regulatory measures such as harvest strategies and management plans. The current system for governing fisheries was shaped in the 1990s against the backdrop of concerns about dramatically overfished stocks such as gemfish and orange roughy, which increased public awareness of environmental issues and employment-reducing restructuring of major commercial fisheries. Contemporary fisheries management objectives thus came to be focused on sustainability. In this vision of sustainability, fish are imagined as biological stocks and the amounts of fish of particular species is the key indicator regarding availability of the resource for current and future generations. Economic objectives are narrowly considered and social aspects of sustainability are not—fish are not treated as sources of food, culture, or livelihoods. Once fish enter the postharvest supply chain, the policy imaginary changes and they are regulated as a food commodity. In this space, governors for consumer protection manage products to ensure they are safe to eat and set the conditions for sale, including what information needs to be available to consumers. Seafood supply is guaranteed through trade flows, so sustainability is not regulated in the postharvest part of the supply chain. Sustainability is treated as a consumer value to be left to the initiative of the private sector, for example, through branding seafood product with ecolabels.
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