Knowing the patterns of marine resource exploitation and seafood trade may help countries to design their future strategic plans and development policies. To fully understand these patterns, it is necessary to identify where the benefits accumulate, how balanced the arrangements are, and how the pattern is evolving over time. Here the flow of global seafood was traced from locations of capture or production to their countries of consumption using novel approaches and databases. Results indicate an increasing dominance of Asian fleets by the volume of catch from the 1950s to the 2010s, including fishing in the high seas. The majority of landings were by high-income countries’ fishing fleets in their own waters in the 1950s but this pattern was greatly altered by the 2010s, with more equality in landings volume and value by fleets representing different income levels. Results also show that the higher the income of a country, the more valuable seafood it imports compared to its exports and vice versa. In theory, this implies that the lower income countries are exporting high value seafood in part to achieve the broader goal of ending poverty, while achieving the food security goal by retaining and importing lower value seafood. In the context of access arrangements between developed and developing countries, the results allow insights into the consequences of these shifting sources of income may have for goals such as poverty reduction and food security.