Scientific background

The scientific starting point

The word “keystone actor” is inspired by the “keystone species” concept in ecology, developed by Professor Robert T. Paine. A scientific paper published in 2015 by Österblom, Jouffray, Folke et al. illustrates that the largest companies in a given industry can operate similarly to keystone species in ecological communities, meaning that they can have a disproportionate effect on the structure and function of the system in which they operate.

The keystone actors of global seafood control 19-40% of some of the largest and most valuable stocks and 11-16 % of the global marine catch. Keystone actors can be defined by the following characteristics:


  • they dominate global production revenues and volumes within a particular sector
  • control globally relevant segments of production
  • connect ecosystems globally through subsidiaries
  • influence global governance processes and institutions

The scientific starting point was developed by researchers at the Stockholm Resilience Centre (SRC), Stockholm University, the Beijer Institute of ecological economics and the Global Economic Dynamics and the Biosphere program (GEDB) of the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences. The SRC is an international and interdisciplinary research centre focusing on understanding ways to enable sustainable social-ecological systems for human wellbeing and resilience in close collaboration with Beijer and GEDB. It is an acknowledged partner in the bridging between science, policy and practice.