Fishing huts at Fisketången harbor, Kungshamn.
Photo: W. Carter, Wikimedia

Sustainable seafood’s potential for Swedish rural development – new research


In a new project funded by Formas, researchers at the University of Gothenburg will study how coastal fishers and locally-landed fish are included in local food initiatives and multifunctional entrepreneurship, and how their future contributions to sustainable rural development might be strengthened.

Maris Gillette, professor in social anthropology.
Photo: Johan Wingborg

The project Sustainable seafood in Sweden's new rural development has received 8 million SEK from Formas, a Swedish government research council for sustainable development. It will be led by Maris Gillette and Milena Arias Schreiber, researchers at the School of Global Studies, and will also include a doctoral student and research assistant. It will run from November 2021 to December 2025.

Congratulations! What is the project about?

”We will study the current status and development potential of fresh, local and sustainable seafood in rural townships on the Swedish coast. In recent years the EU has encouraged small-scale farmers to adopt a ’new rural development paradigm’ which includes place-based value chains, multifunctional producers (e.g., farmers who also run farm stalls and offer tourist accommodations) and community-support for small-scale businesses. This has worked well for farmers and even other kinds of producers like craft beer makers, as our colleague Annelie Sjölander-Lindqvist's research shows. Yet coastal fishers have not been part of this trend, even when supported by government funding. We want to know why this is, and what needs to happen for seafood to become part of this trend,” says Maris Gillette.

What do you hope your research will lead to?

”By examining the factors that promote and inhibit coastal fishers’ and their communities’ participation in food re-localisation and multifunctional entrepreneurship, we want to contribute toward achieving Sweden's national sustainable- and rural development goals.”

Why did you choose to study this?

“In many respects, research for our current Formas project Fishing for solutions inspired us. One question that came up very quickly after we began Fishing for solutions was why Swedish fish and seafood was not part of local food trends that are yielding positive results for Swedish agriculture. For example, Jordbruksverket (the Swedish Board of Agriculture) reports that on the whole Swedish consumption of meat is declining, but at the same time the market share of Swedish meat is increasing. Reko-rings, which sell local food, have proliferated rapidly in recent years and are contributing to small-scale farmers' sustainability. Yet Swedish seafood has not been affected by this development - and this even though a recent study of Swedish consumers that Jordbruksverket commissioned found that Swedish consumers have a high level of trust in Swedish commercial fishers and would buy Swedish seafood if they could.”

“Further, even though the Swedish national fishing strategy since 2016 has encouraged coastal fishers to diversity and become involved in tourism, our research indicates that fishers are not doing this. Ample evidence shows that Swedish coastal fisheries are far from thriving - and this is only partly about environmental problems. We would like to see thriving coastal fisheries in Sweden, and local seafood as part of the new rural development,” says Maris Gillette.