Tracing the double negative: Marine ecologies and worker precarity in Southeast Asian trash fish supply chains

Last changed: 12 December 2023

The project investigates how trash fish supply chains impact marine resource depletion and worker precarity in Southeast Asia.

Trash fish, also known as forage fish or low value fish, are a critical ingredient in animal feed, and are often caught unsustainably. Despite its importance for resiliency and ocean ecologies, we know very little about it.

This project aims to develop a novel empirical approach, in that it will be based on data produced through working with supply chain participants, including fish workers and pre-processing workers, in mainland Southeast Asia, with a focus on Thailand* and Vietnam.

We approach our research question: how do trash fish supply chains impact marine resource depletion and worker precarity?, through a so called ‘double negative framework’ (rather than defining what sustainability is, the emphasis is shifted to definitions of what is unsustainable, thereby identifying safe and just spaces).

We build this framework out by drawing on three bodies of literature, to comprehend the complex narratives of trash fish in Southeast Asia:

  • supply chain analysis,
  • ecological resilience studies,
  • labour precarity. 


Visualisation of the double negative framework.

Using trash fish as methodological object to trace both the stage of the ocean and the working conditions of workers, this project will engage with broader policy implications for government authorities and policy makers in coastal states where trash fish is caught, as well as private actors responsible for supply chain sustainability.

SDGs addressed

SDG 1 "No poverty" by exploring how labor market insecurity reinforces poverty;

SDG 8 "Decent work and economic growth" by exploring the links between marine resource depletion and labor insecurity in seafood supply chains through junk fish supply chains. Labor market insecurity leads to vulnerability and lack of ability to improve their socio-economic living conditions.

SDG 14 "Life below water";

SDG1, SDG8, SDG14. Icons.


Project leader

Alin KadfakResearcher, Division of Rural Development, SLU, +46735562441
Read more about Alin Kadfak on her CV page
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Project participants

Chanrith Ngin, (Assisting Project Leader), Director, Cambodia Development Resource Institute
Read more about Changrith Ngin on his presentation page

Peter Vandergeest, Professor Emeritus, Department of Geography, York University, Toronto, Canada
Read more about Peter Vandergeest on his presentation page

Melissa Marschke, Professor, International Development and Global Studies, University of Ottawa, Canada
Read more about Melissa Marschke on her presentation page

Tong Thi Hai Hanh, Institute of Social Sciences in of the Central Region, Vietnam
Read nore about Tong Hai Hanh

Project time


External funding

Swedish Research Institute for Sustainable Development - Formas

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