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LC | Transparency and Accountability in Sustainable Seafood Supply Chains



Seafood is an important source of food for over 1 billion people worldwide, particularly in developing countries where it constitutes the main source of protein. At the same time, seafood has moved into the spotlight in terms of its unsustainable impact for the environment and humans. Overfishing and illegal fishing are endangering both livelihoods and global food security, and according to the Food and Agriculture Organization, up to 75 percent of fisheries are overfished or seriously depleted. Moreover, shocking human rights violations – including trafficking and forced labor – are reported for overseas fishing vessels that can be linked to supply chains of major global seafood producers.

A major problem regarding seafood is that consumers are not able to track seafood through the supply chain, to identify producers and their impacts. This makes it hard for consumers to hold producers accountable for their environmental and social misconduct and make the right purchasing choices. Supply chains for seafood are lacking transparency, and are characterized by the lack of a strong lead firm who is visible to consumers (and accountable), and is able to control the activities of other actors in the chain. This differentiates the seafood supply chain from other food supply chains, and makes it particularly hard to bring positive changes. As changes for sustainability are usually initiated through stakeholder pressures – and those of non-profit and non-governmental organizations (NGOs) in particular, this LC aims at better understanding where stakeholder pressures are currently targeted at, and with which outcomes.

For: Bachelor, Master and PhD students of all degree programmes. We are looking for students from a variety of programs, who care about environmental and social issues, who have a desire to understand “where our food is coming from” and how its production conditions could be improved towards a sustainable level. Students should be accustomed to work in teams and get “out there” to engage with the field and initiate and conduct interviews with key actors.

Lecturer/s involved: dr. Miriam Wilhelm, Prof. Bert Scholtens, dr.Kees van Veen

External business contacts involved: Team interviews are planned with different NGOs and certification bodies that are active in the seafood industry such as Greenpeace and Sustainable Fisheries Partnerships. Some of these organizations will be closer associated with major industry players than others.


Main benefits

  • Enhance knowledge about sustainability, supply chains, and how NGOs operate
  • Join discussions with motivated other students and instructors who are passionate about the topic and can provide insights from their (related) research projects
  • Improve interviewing techniques, which are a useful research skill for the Master thesis
  • Collect data that could be used (if extended) for a Master thesis project
  • Joint development of a presentation on transparency in the seafood supply chain and accountable key actors. The presentation is planned to be held to industry actors and stakeholders of seafood.

Key learning outcomes:

  • You will be able to understand and reflect on sustainability issues in food supply chains and their underlying causes
  • You will learn how to design an interviewing guideline and develop interviewing techniques

Skills covered

  • Investigative skills
  • Social skills
  • Interviewing techniques

Schedule & Time Investment

In total 5 to 7 LC group meetings à 2 hours are planned every 1-3 weeks. Planning of the meetings is not set yet: this will be defined based on the availability of the eventual participants.

Next to the meetings (about 10-14 hours in total), students are expected to spend about 2 hours per week for reading and preparations for the meetings and interviews, and an additional 3-8 hours once for conducting interviews (including travel time).

Sign up

You can sign up for this Learning Community until 19 February.

Last modified:16 February 2017 3.50 p.m.