Why alternative seafood

GFI empowers innovators to create delicious, affordable plant-based, cultivated, and fermentation-derived proteins. We aim to make the sustainable choice the default choice. There is arguably no more urgent product category for this approach than seafood. 

Seafood poses unique challenges for innovators, and our Sustainable Seafood Initiative provides targeted research and support to accelerate this sector. Read on to learn what factors we believe will make alternative seafood successful.

Independence from population & geographical constraints

Alternative seafood doesn’t rely on wild population productivity or geographical considerations. Supply chains and raw materials for alternative proteins are significantly less constrained than conventional seafood supply chains, so plant-based and cultivated seafood can be produced consistently. 

Manufacturing facilities for plant-based and cultivated seafood don’t need to be located near sensitive, expensive, and overburdened coastal areas. Instead, they can be built where consumer demand is, creating good jobs anywhere.

Highly efficient inputs

We can make alternative seafood products from highly efficient protein sources, such as fungi, with the potential to use byproduct streams and residual biomass from other sources like feedstocks. Essentially, we can make more seafood with fewer natural resources and far less harm to our environment. 

Fewer health risks

Fish and shellfish are two of the eight most common food allergens, which cause more than 90% of food allergic reaction episodes in the U.S.

Additionally, some people limit seafood consumption because they are concerned about high levels of mercury and other toxins. The FDA advises those who are pregnant or breastfeeding to avoid certain species of fish completely.

Reduced loss in supply chain

Plant-based products have a longer shelf life and don’t need as much costly refrigerated transportation. They also provide an attractive opportunity for local production in landlocked areas. 

Further, the production processes for both plant-based and cultivated seafood are more controllable and predictable. This allows for better real-time response to demand and for much more customized end products that precisely meet consumer needs. We can produce valuable cuts, product formats, and species of seafood products without generating low-value byproduct waste.

These benefits create an opportunity for plant-based and cultivated seafood to provide a healthier, ocean-friendly, and ultimately less expensive alternatives to conventional seafood. 

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Action paper: An ocean of opportunity

This action paper explores alternative seafood’s role in creating a sustainable, secure, and just food system.

Alternative seafood industry update report cover


State of the Industry Report: Alternative seafood

Our report explores the global alternative seafood industry’s commercial landscape and shares the latest on investments, sales data, and consumer insights.

Plant-based and cultivated seafood research

GFI’s Sustainable Seafood Initiative is enabling high-impact research to address critical challenges facing the plant-based, cultivated, and fermentation-derived seafood sectors. These projects will greatly reduce the barrier to entry for new researchers and innovators.

Blue school of fish graphic, representing benefits of cultivated seafood

Aggregating seafood data

Explore our open-access tools for seafood data: the Phylogenetic Index of Seafood CharactEriStics (PISCES) and the Archetype Library for Alternative Seafood (ATLAS). These tools aggregate data characterizing the properties and impacts of conventionally-produced seafood in order to accelerate the development and commercialization of alternative seafood.

Characterization of seafood products

The research community urgently needs the parameters that define high-quality meat from a number of seafood-relevant species. A deep understanding of the molecular and structural signatures that define consumer experiences—like taste, aroma, and texture—is critical for developing alternative seafood products that replicate these sensory experiences. Nutritional, aesthetic, and processing qualities are also important for producing high-quality alternative seafood products. 

GFI has worked to compile existing research in a user-friendly format with a tool called PISCES. This tool contains available research for over 200 marine species, including cell lines, curated research papers, genome sequences, taxonomies, nutrition profiles, and greenhouse gas footprints. 

PISCES is integrated with our Archetype Library for Alternative Seafood (ATLAS) which presents data on an archetype-level to help users prioritize groups of species for alternative seafood based on environmental impact, human health, animal welfare, and market size. 

We plan to expand PISCES to include new research and systematically characterize the structure, mechanical properties, and aroma of several common seafood species. With increasing access to data and connections across data modalities, researchers and innovators can accelerate the development and widespread commercial adoption of plant-based and cultivated seafood. 

Learn more about our plans for this resource and contact us if you’re interested in supporting this work.

School of fish along a reef in the maldives, photo courtesy of sebastian pena lambarri via unsplash

Cell line repository

GFI is partnering with the reagents company Kerafast to establish a repository of cell lines relevant to cultivated meat and seafood. This repository will streamline the process of sharing cells for research between labs and/or companies, and cut down on duplication of effort. 

Easier access to validated cell lines brings us closer to the day when cultivated meat and seafood come to market. Learn how GFI is streamlining access to cell lines and funding the development of new lines.

Cell line development

Thanks to gifts from the philanthropic community, we are funding work at Mote Marine Laboratory on the development of embryonic lines from red drum, almaco jack, and whiteleg shrimp. At Tufts University, we have granted funds for the development of myosatellite lines from Atlantic salmon. We are also granting funds for a project on culture media optimization for finfish species at Virginia Tech.

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Join our research efforts

If you are a scientist interested in alternative seafood, we would love to explore ways to work together! Thanks to support from philanthropic partners, we may also be able to provide research funding, so if you have a great idea, please apply.

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Help shape the direction of our research

If you’ve ever thought, “I wish GFI were supporting research into…” and it had anything to do with seafood, we’d like to hear from you! 

The more our priorities can be shaped by the real challenges being faced by researchers and companies, the more of an impact we will have. Whether it’s a specific technical approach you’d like to explore or something more outside the box, please don’t hesitate to get in touch.

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Join the GFIdeas Community

We’re in this together. GFIdeas is our community of innovators who are advancing a healthy, sustainable, and just food system. Join GFIdeas to amplify your impact in the global good food system. Learn from an international business network of entrepreneurs and investors as you launch a startup and meet collaborators. Join GFIdeas to propel scientific innovation and explore the frontier of food technology.

The GFIdeas Community features a Slack channel dedicated to seafood. If you’re interested in connecting with others in this space, we would love to hear from you!

Research ideas

We identify, prioritize, promote, and track the most promising solutions to accelerate the alternative protein industry. Tap into our solutions work to discover ideas for research projects, find inspiration for new commercial ventures and products, and explore ecosystem-level interventions to support the industry as a whole. 

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Consumer and sensory research to guide alternative fish R&D

Consumer and sensory research can help companies and academic researchers better understand seafood consumers’ needs and desires. Understanding consumers’ needs will allow alternative fish researchers to ask and prioritize the…

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Cell line development from food-relevant aquatic species

A lack of publicly-available cell lines from relevant species and cell types continues to be a challenge for the field of cultivated seafood. Addressing this challenge will require further investigation…

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Cultivated, fermentation-derived, or hybrid surimi

There has been little publicly announced R&D and commercial effort to develop cultivated, fermentation-derived, or hybrid surimi. Compared to other meat products, surimi is likely to be by far one…

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Promoting stemness and proliferation in fish cell cultures

Efficient and cost-effective cultivated fish production will require precise optimization to encourage fast proliferation and highly efficient use of inputs while preventing premature differentiation. A variety of strategies can be…

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Life Cycle Assessment for alternative seafood relative to conventional fishing and aquaculture

To date, no robust environmental assessments have been conducted to compare alternative seafood to its conventional counterparts. An open-access, quantitative analysis of the relative environmental impacts of alternative seafood will…

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Incorporating omega-3s into cultivated seafood

Cultivated seafood will need to be supplemented with long-chain omega-3 polyunsaturated fatty acids to be nutritionally equivalent or superior to conventional seafood. However, how these compounds can best be incorporated…

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Affordable animal-free omega-3 ingredients for alternative seafood and other alternative protein applications

In order to appeal to health-conscious consumers, alternative seafood products should contain similar omega-3 fatty acids, especially DHA and EPA, content to conventional seafood. Animal-free omega-3 ingredients can be expensive…

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Novel methods for long-chain omega-3 fatty acid production

As the alternative seafood industry scales up, a low-cost and abundant source of long-chain omega-3 polyunsaturated fatty acids will become necessary. Several means of producing these compounds have been investigated…

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Preventing oxidation of omega-3 fatty acids before and after addition to alternative seafood products

Deeper fundamental knowledge of the causes and prevention of oxidation of omega-3 fatty acids before, during, and after addition to alternative seafood products is needed to improve their nutritional and…

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Understanding uptake and interconversion of omega-3 fatty acids by cultivated fish cells

Although fish are one of the best dietary sources of long-chain omega-3 fatty acids (FAs), these compounds are mostly bioaccumulated from a fish’s diet rather than synthesized de novo. Consistent…

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Scaffolding development for culinary and biomechanical requirements of cultivated seafood

A number of published studies have focused on scaffolds for cultivated meat (see Related Efforts) yet, to our knowledge, no studies have specifically attempted to formulate scaffolds for fish or…

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“Rainbow roll 2.0” showcase for cultivated seafood

Given the nascent market for cultivated meats, especially for cultivated seafood, a “Rainbow Roll 2.0” product could be an attractive market-entry commercial product.

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Decision matrix for seafood target species selection

Creating an online, open-access decision matrix tool that ranks popular seafood-relevant species against each other based on several criteria such as market size, per-unit price, sustainability of conventional production practices,…

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Connect with our experts

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Claire bomkamp, ph. D.

Claire Bomkamp, Ph.D.


Claire Bomkamp is focused on cultivated seafood and driving forward GFI’s Sustainable Seafood Initiative.

Areas of expertise: the science and technology of cultivated seafood, cultivated seafood startups, research, and university programs, scaffolding, science communication, fish puns.

Marika azoff

Marika Azoff


Marika leads GFI’s work with foodservice operators, retailers, and distributors to inspire and accelerate their shift toward alternative proteins.

Areas of expertise: foodservice, retail, distribution, alternative seafood, relationship development, public speaking

Liz specht, ph. D.

Liz Specht, Ph.D.


Featured resources

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Aggregating data for alternative seafood

Use our open-access databases to explore how scientific taxonomies and evolutionary relationships map onto culinary categories of seafood.

School of fish

Introducing PISCES, a new data navigation tool to inform alternative seafood development

There’s a lot of research on the cellular and molecular components needed to match conventional seafood’s taste, texture, and aroma. We’ve put together a resource to help alternative seafood researchers…

Crashing waves from above

Action paper: An ocean of opportunity

This action paper explores alternative seafood’s role in creating a sustainable, secure, and just food system.

A shopper compares plant-based meat products in a supermarket aisle

Alternative protein company database

Explore the landscape of plant-based, cultivated, and fermentation companies including consumer brands, manufacturers, and ingredients companies.

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Choosing alternative seafood

Alternative seafood is a clear market opportunity. To date, little research has been conducted in this area. To fill this gap and strengthen the alternative seafood innovation ecosystem, GFI partnered…

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Research grants

Learn about cutting-edge alternative protein research funded by GFI. Find funding opportunities for your own research.

Gfi director of science & technology liz specht and dr.  earle in a seated discussion

Our collaborators

GFI’s Sustainable Seafood Initiative is a proud Mission Blue Partner. Led by legendary oceanographer Dr. Sylvia Earle, Mission Blue works to ignite public support for a global network of marine protected areas. GFI Director of Science & Technology Liz Specht sat down with Dr. Earle for a fireside chat to discuss the unique challenges and opportunities for plant-based and cultivated seafood.

Recommended viewing

Webinar: Alternative Seafood Industry Update, 2021
Webinar: The Current Landscape of Plant-Based and Cultivated Seafood Innovation | GFI senior scientist Claire Bomkamp and panelists from Mote Marine Laboratory, the University of Calgary, Shiok Meats, BlueNalu, and Bon Appetit Management Company discuss new approaches to producing high-quality seafood sustainably.
Global demand for seafood is projected to grow, yet over 90% of wild fisheries are already being fished at maximum capacity, are classified as overfished, or have already collapsed. Dr. Liz Specht and legendary oceanographer Sylvia Earle explore the tragic impact of overfishing and the unique opportunities and challenges for plant-based and clean meat seafood products.

The latest in sustainable seafood

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Global perspectives: what do consumers think about alternative seafood around the world?

Comparing new consumer research from Japan, Thailand, Singapore, and South Korea to the U.S.

Https://gfi. Org/wp content/uploads/2022/04/conch middens photo credit fianna fluess

Vanessa Haley-Benjamin is laying the groundwork for cultivated mollusks

A conversation about alternative seafood, ocean conservation, and the importance of inclusion in building up the alt protein industry.

Premium high-quality alternative seafood wildtype

GFI funds “gold standard” alternative seafood development

GFI has awarded a grant to researchers working to characterize the properties of high-quality seafood in order to accelerate the production of premium alternative seafood products.

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Our ocean is threatened. Alternative seafood is one solution.

Learn how GFI and partners are scaling the science that we need around plant-based, cultivated, and fermentation-derived seafood to improve our oceans’ health.

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With support from NOAA, alt seafood could help sustainably meet the growing demand for seafood

With open-access research funding from NOAA, alternative seafood could help protect our oceans and bolster U.S. seafood production.

Climate change impact on marine reef environment with school of fish

Climate change is threatening our oceans. Alternative seafood can help.

Global efforts to curb emissions, protect marine biodiversity, and reduce the impacts of climate change on our oceans should include investments in plant-based and cultivated seafood.

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What U.S. consumers want in alternative seafood products

A new survey conducted by GFI and Kelton Global showed that, in addition to excellent taste and texture, messaging about alternative seafood products’ environmental, health, and functional benefits can broaden…

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GFI submits recommendations to FDA for cultivated seafood labeling regulation

Sensible and carefully considered regulation of cultivated seafood will be essential to creating a sustainable, secure, and just food system.

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My passion for ocean conservation is what led me to support GFI’s Sustainable Seafood Initiative. Alternative seafood is a key solution to some of our ocean’s most pressing challenges, and GFI is accelerating the entire sector.”
Kathlyn Tan, Director, Rumah Group & Foundation
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Support our work

Our Sustainable Seafood Initiative and all of GFI’s research grants are made possible thanks to our global family of generous donors. Philanthropic support is vital to our mission. Connect with us today to discuss how you can help fuel this transformative work.