Our land is girt by sea full of fresh seafood, and yet canned and frozen fish remain the most frequently purchased seafood products by more than half of all Australians.
In the largest global analysis of attitudes to seafood consumption, 75 per cent of Australians were revealed to consider sustainably sourced seafood a top priority, while more than 50 per cent were willing to pay more for seafood that was certified sustainable.
The consumer data, commissioned by the non-profit Marine Stewardship Council, was released on Thursday in conjunction with the council’s latest annual report into ocean and seafood sustainability.
The international MSC is best known for its blue eco-label, displayed on products that are fully traceable and originate from independently certified wild-catch fisheries.
“This research shows Australians are voting with their wallets … by opting for sustainably certified seafood,” said Anne Gabriel, MSC Oceania program director
“This is not just a passing trend, it’s an evolution strongly driven by consumer demand that demonstrates greater engagement on traceability and consideration towards our food sources.”
The analysis of 16,000 shoppers in 21 global markets was conducted by independent research company GlobeScan. It found, on average, people were willing to spend 11 per cent more for MSC-certified seafood.
In Australia, the majority of people purchased fish and seafood products in supermarkets, with Coles the most popular destination, followed by Woolworths, ALDI and IGA.
Coles and IKEA have full MSC-certification and traceability in place for their fresh and packaged seafood, while Woolworths, IGA and ALDI all sell MSC-certified frozen and canned seafood.
Coles said it had seen an “increase in demand for responsibly sourced seafood over the last year”, with the most popular varieties being banana prawns, tiger prawns and salmon.
Ms Gabriel said the MSC would like to see a more diverse range of certified seafood on the Australian market, as well as better awareness of the MSC label among shoppers.
“The research showed 24 per cent of Australians had seen the label … so our focus now is building that awareness.”
Last year Queensland-based tuna company Walker Seafoods Australia was awarded MSC-certification after “years of work and around $300,000”.
Managing director Heidi Walker said supplying to restaurants and wholesalers around Australia had revealed that sustainable seafood was in demand.
“Our fishery was always sustainable, but by having the certification we are now selling to America, Switzerland … countries that will only sell MSC seafood in their supermarkets,” she said.
“We are getting a premium of 15-20 per cent on our MSC-certified fish.”
Ms Walker said she was not surprised that packaged fish products were more frequently purchased by Australians.
“It always comes down to price … when it’s fresh, it has to be air freighted around the country. You put something in a tin, of course the cost of that can’t compare to fresh fish,” she said.
“I think in Australia fresh seafood will always be a premium price.”
There are currently 286 fisheries in 36 countries that are MSC-certified, all of which have a combined annual seafood production of around nine million metric tonnes, or 10 per cent of annual global yields.
More than 20,000 seafood products worldwide carry the blue MSC label.
At German discount giant ALDI, MSC-certification has been applied to all frozen and packaged seafood since 2009.
An ALDI Australia spokesperson said its practices allowed it to independently verify if a fish species was sustainable “by measuring maximum sustainable yield, catch method, fishery management practices and percentage of by-catch”.
Earlier this year, the MSC reported that 30 per cent of the world’s seafood was still mislabelled.
Online Source: The Sydney Morning Herald.