California aquaculture in the changing food seascape

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California consumes the most seafood of all the states in the United States, and is thus an important influence on the national seafood landscape. Like the nation as a whole, California relies on trade for seafood, which can have effects on livelihoods, food security, human rights and environmental justice. Expanding aquaculture could contribute to food supply and security and provide a more sustainable way to produce food in the future. The United States has recently expressed an interest in increasing domestic production of seafood, in the Executive Order Promoting American Seafood Competitiveness and Economic Growth, with the direct desired results of increased local and sustainable food, decreased foreign dependence, and increased jobs. California is re-examining its seafood sector and needs to reconcile disparities in production and consumption as the state navigates a changing seafood landscape. Understanding the current seafood landscape is necessary for making informed decisions to secure a resilient, sustainable, and equitable seafood sector. To reflect the goals recently stated in the Executive Order, we ask 1) what is the state of seafood production and consumption in California, 2) what is the trade landscape for seafood within California, both domestic and international, and 3) how have people in California experienced this interaction between production, trade, and consumption, through the lens of employment. We find California consumes upward of three times more seafood than it produces by volume, and relies heavily on international imports to make up the production gap, with roughly half of imported production likely coming from aquaculture. This reliance has radiating effects, such as displacement of environmental burden to other, often poorer and less regulated countries, and to places where seafood production is likely associated with human rights violations. Wild capture is unlikely to increase, so any increase in domestic production will come from aquaculture. To meet this call, California has a choice along a spectrum of increased state production via aquaculture or increased dependence on aquacultured imports, both foreign and domestic. Currently, the state has the capacity to be proactive rather than reactive as it charts a path forward.

Funding Sponsor

California Ocean Protection Council


Aquaculture, Blue economy, Blue growth, California, Employment, Seafood, Trade


Moss Landing Marine Laboratories