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Aquaculture Europe 2014: What Do Consumers Want From Organic Aquaculture?

Lucy Towers
20 October 2014, at 1:00am

GERMANY - In recent years there has been a move towards more ethical and organic fish consumption. In order to understand what consumers want and expect from organic seafood products, Yvonne Feucht has analysed the views of six focus groups from Germany - comprised of organic and conventional product purchasers, writes Lucy Towers, TheFishSite Editor, at the Aquaculture Europe conference in San Sebastian, Spain.

The findings from these groups suggests that people expect organic aquaculture to be:

  • a natural way of production
  • respect fish welfare
  • no use of drugs
  • eco-friendly
  • exclusive breeding of native fish
  • traditional production

In terms of the method of organic aquaculture production, the focus groups were asked their opinions on earthen ponds, flow-through systems and recirculating systems.

In general, the earthen pond was the most appealing as the groups described it as appearing more natural and ecologically sound. They also concluded that as it has a low stocking density, there must be a low disease risk and therefore is a more healthy product.

Discussing the flow-through systems, the groups found it to be an acceptable method as fish are kept outdoors and therefore, in their opinion, was fairly natural.

When asked about the recirculating systems, the consumers said they were not familiar with it, and that it gave them the impression of mass factory production.

Although this is not completely true of recirculating systems, it did contradict their ideas of what they believed organic aquaculture should be. They also questioned the sustainability and welfare of the system, as the high density of the system made them feel that drugs would be required.

As well as being unfamiliar with the types of production, the groups also showed that they did not know organic labels well either, saying labels are of little help to differentiate between organic and sustainable products.

While some said they would like to see more information become available, some said there is currently an information overload and there certainly does not need to be any more information crammed onto packaging.

Despite a lack of knowledge about organic aquaculture, the focus groups did perceive this method of farming as being the ideal aquaculture practice.