Journal of Agricultural and Environmental Ethics

, Volume 26, Issue 1, pp 101-117

Open Access This content is freely available online to anyone, anywhere at any time.

Sustainability at the Crossroads of Fish Consumption and Production Ethical Dilemmas of Fish Buyers at Retail Organizations in The Netherlands

  • Karianne KalshovenAffiliated withEthiek Instituut, Universiteit Utrecht
  • , Franck L. B. MeijboomAffiliated withEthiek Instituut, Universiteit Utrecht Email author 


Sustainability and welfare are concepts that are often mentioned in the context of fishing and fish farming. What these concepts imply in practice, how they are defined and made operational is less clear. This paper focuses on the role of fish buyers as a key actor in the supply chain between the fisher or fish farmer and the consumer. Using semi-structured interviews, we explore and analyze whether and how the interviewed fish buyers define and implement moral values related to animal welfare and sustainability. The eight fish buyers who were interviewed suggest that moral values are used in their work, but also result in a number of value conflicts (moral and non-moral). The focus on sustainability and animal welfare appear to be driven by external and market factors. Sustainability mainly reflects fishing methods and quotas and fish welfare is seen as part of sustainability. Fish welfare seems more important for farmed than for wild fish as the buyers feel a responsibility regarding these kept animals. Further, the decision whether a product is sustainable is mainly based on labels. Fish buyers argue that labels are useful as a business-to-business tool. Nonetheless, based on the interviews, we argue that the relevance of these labels for addressing the ethical dilemmas of buyers is limited. Labels often are a rather procedural solution that deals with the genuine dilemmas only to a limited extent. We conclude that in order to move forward, the sector needs to further reflect and elaborate on its core values.


Fish buyers Retail Ethical dilemmas Fish welfare Sustainability