Fish: A Global Value Chain Driven onto the Rocks

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This article discusses the fish sector in the light of the global value chain (GVC) approach and particularly its demand- versus supply-driven typology. It is argued that especially in the case of long-established food chains, such as fish, where multiple actors both public and private have cumulatively defined and redefined policies and strategies, clear patterns of governance are less easy to establish than in the ideal-typical case of the fresh fruit and vegetables sector. The article analyses the crisis of the capture fishing sector, together with the regulatory systems put into place, and traces the explosive growth of fish-farming, situating both within a redefinition of North-South relations in this global value chain. Special attention is given to the role of catering and retail in the growth of fish-farming and it is argued that retail is now committed to the latter's promotion to a degree which compromises its ‘consumer-oriented’ image. The article concludes that the future of the fish sector cannot be left in the hands of the supermarkets' putative capacity to internalise consumer demand, but requires the direct involvement of the consumer–citizen for the implementation of national and global regulation.