Seafood Supply Chain Structures and Challenges
The fishery is a specific occupation, and difficulties in doing such a business in this area are mainly determined by the spoilage of products, traditionalism, and lack of technology in many countries. The widespread distribution of marine products and the possible unavailability of some stages of the supply chain can lead to a lack of readiness to adapt to unpredictable circumstances, such as COVID-19. Supply chain structures can produce some challenges for resource management within the fishing industry. These risks are closely related to government regulations and obstacles created by international borders, which create delays and affect the quality of the perishable products. Nevertheless, sustainability managers may benefit from supply chain structures’ peculiarities and discover opportunities for business development.
Challenges for Seafood Supply Chain Structures
The Risk of Diseases
Firstly, there are risks related to imported seafood and other dangers that might appear during the processing, distribution, and consumption of marine products. In their study, Love et al. (2021b) research antimicrobial-resistant bacteria and low levels of drug residues in imported seafood products and assume what problems it can cause further down the supply chain. As seafood consumption is “one of the most causes of foodborne disease,” and risks are high, consumers may sometimes refuse to buy, which leads to negative consequences of suppressing seafood consumption (Love et al., 2021b, p.1). Moreover, risks regarding fish products are less about the origin and more a function of the activities that are implemented at each stage of the supply chain. The bacteria, such as L. monocytogenes and Clostridium botulinum, are frequently the reason for product recall (Love et al., 2021b). The preparation stage creates challenges relating to food worker hygiene, health, and paid medical leave. Thus, it can be said that the seafood supply chain’s and fish products’ particular qualities influence consumers’ choice and create additional costs associated with ensuring quick import and the employees’ health.
Secondly, changes and regulations produced by governments, such as new food standards and laws that impact exports and imports, influence all sectors of the supply chain. Prompatanapak and Lopetcharat (2020) analyzed data with regard to the fish industry in Thailand and found that laws that were supposed to positively affect the development of the fishing industry caused damage. According to the new regulations, all the food workers must be legally registered, and, consequently, the peeling houses disappeared from the supply chain as processors start to process the products independently (Prompatanapak & Lopetcharat, 2020, p.2). Furthermore, with regard to the international supply chain, non-tariff impediments might cause additional obstacles. Symes and Phillipson (2019) conducted research into possible additional challenges the fishing industry may face in relation to Brexit. Border checks and added documentation could cause delays and ruin delivery schedules for fish to European clients. Given the perishable goods, delays of three hours might negatively influence the quality of fish, which can undermine customer preferences. Consequently, additional restrictions relating to laws and new political conditions can result in the exclusion of some participants in the chain and a decrease in consumer demand due to additional time costs.
Thirdly, globalization of seafood production resulted in a high risk of contaminated fish, which is one more challenge for resource management. Considering the international level and the fact that fish spoil quickly, Al-Busaidi et al. (2016) claim that to ensure “the integrity of imported and exported seafood products,” the supply chain’s effective management is crucial (p. 551). In other terms, management with regard to international supply chains implies knowledge about the laws of the countries involved in these chains and about possible obstacles that may arise.
Growing Globalization and Low-Income Population
Besides, the internationality of the supply chain implies various standards of markets. To provide quality and safety of seafood products for the external supply chain, it is necessary to have modern services, such as fish quality checking, ice machines, and monitoring temperature facilities (Al-Busaidi et al., 2016). Moreover, artisanal fisheries in developing economies risk more since they have fewer abilities. In their study regarding artisanal fishers, Giron-Nava et al. (2018) argue the view that fisherfolk is sometimes poor and at-risk because, for many, fishing is the only source of income. For example, approximately 80% of people, who are entirely dependent on fisheries, have incomes that are below official poverty lines, especially in artisanal fisheries (Giron-Nava et al., 2018). It means that, in the context of growing globalization, the poor population involved in fishing activities would not be able to compete with large companies capable of investing in technology development. In other words, growing globalization can also create a challenge for sustainability management.
The characteristics of the fish supply chain make it more vulnerable to unforeseen circumstances, such as COVID-19. In their study on the impact of the pandemic, Love et al. (2021a) discovered that in high-income countries, there was a significant “shift in all food sourcing favoring eating at home over restaurants” (p. 2). In other words, public health measures to reduce the spread of COVID-19 resulted in restaurant closures, which limited markets for more expensive fish products. At the same time, a sharp drop in real incomes of the population due to the economic crisis contributed to the decrease in demand as well, and border closures disrupted international supply chains. Thus, the international level implies more high costs for equipment in this area, and the heavy prices of some products in this sector determines a decrease in demand during the crisis.
The Cost of Maintaining Trade
Whether the local raw material’s price is high, like in Thailand, the processors can sell the imported seafood into the local market, and such an expansion would be in conflict with the traditional importers. Because of high national sanitation standards, the processors need to improve their facilities and invest in their quality management systems. The spoilage of seafood and pathogenic bacteria predetermine the necessity of technologies to reduce spoilage and such bacteria in the food chain. The mining of “oceanic genome resources for antibacterial peptides (ABPs)” researched by Tong et al. (2021) can serve as an example of such a technology that might be implemented in seafood production (p. 3). Customer care and technology development can predetermine the increase in expenses of running such a business. Hence, some features of the seafood supply chain and fish products can lead to a higher cost of maintaining this trade.
Opportunities for Seafood Supply Chain Structures
Preference for Domestic-Origin Goods
Despite all the challenges, supply chain structures and their functions can offer several opportunities for resource management and sustainability efforts within fisheries. First of all, seafood spoils quickly, which creates the risk of the occurrence of disease and poisoning when consuming imported products, which gives local fishermen advantages. Love et al. (2021b) claims that due to the risks of the safety of imported seafood, consumers are ready to pay more for domestic-origin goods. The priority for local producers is especially beneficial for artisanal fisheries in emerging economies, which cannot afford developed technologies and remain competitive in the conditions of large international producers and suppliers.
Limits for Price Increase
With regard to the growing seafood market, the characteristics of marine products supply chains in emerging economies export some advantages. In their research concerning the Brazilian sardines market, Pincinato and Asche (2018) found that the increased seafood import and competition from alternative sources predetermined the potential limit of the price increase. Although it may result in local fishers’ income decrease, it defenses the fish stocks against higher fishing effort and, consequently, is beneficial for the market and resources.
Consumers’ Trust and Loyalty
As it has been mentioned earlier, regulations are an integral of seafood supply chain structures, as these products are associated with risks of particular diseases. Despite all the challenges involved in controlling the condition of goods, finally, the regulations allow distributors to maintain the appropriate quality of seafood they sell or transport. Governments attempt to adjust their requirements to the changes in seafood markets, which makes it predominantly impossible to deliver spoilt products to customers. For instance, Al-Busaidi et al. (2016) mark: “The Omani government is attempting to upgrade the system of controls and has made tremendous progress toward the implementation of HACCP and introducing enhanced management systems” (para 1.). These regulations inside the seafood supply chain imply a valuable opportunity of winning the confidence and loyalty of numerous consumers and, therefore, increase profit.
General Quality Improvement
The major benefit of seafood supply chain structures is dividing labor between professionals, which is considered to improve the quality of goods in general. This business model allows to find fishers, who specialize in catching seafood of premium quality. In addition, distributors, concentrated only on their duties, may take into consideration all requirements on keeping the goods fresh and elaborating new approaches (Doan & Bui, 2020). Therefore, division of labor contributes to making each step of the supply chain structure perfect, which gives an opportunity to improve the quality of products in general.
To conclude, although there are some challenges that managers can face regarding fisheries, this industry may offer several opportunities for local and national development. The analyzed studies showed that seafood spoilage predetermines a great number of issues. The problems are connected to the obstacles created within the international supply chains and the need for additional investments in the development of technologies and ensuring the health of food workers. Additionally, being aimed at the industry progress and protection of the most vulnerable members of the system, international and national governments’ regulations might affect the supply chains negatively. Globalization and high national sanitation standards led to a decline of local artisanal fisheries in emerging economies, which compete with international opponents. However, there are opportunities associated with seafood chain supply structures. They may make domestic-origin goods more preferable, comparing to imported options. In addition, this model allows to limit the price increase and maintain appropriate quality of seafood, which contributes to winning customers’ confidence and loyalty.
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