Aquaculture for all

Pollution and overfishing top seafood consumers’ concerns

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A new study suggests seafood consumers across the globe are united in thinking that the biggest threat to the oceans is pollution, followed by overfishing.

The study, the second of its kind to be commissioned by the Marine Stewardship Council (MSC), also showed that younger consumers (18-34) show a slightly different profile, eating less seafood on average and being more worried about the effects of climate change on the oceans than their older counterparts.

The study was undertaken by the leading research agency GlobeScan, which surveyed more than 25,000 consumers in 22 countries. It found that 72 percent of seafood consumers would like to see independent verification of seafood sustainability claims in supermarkets, up from 68 percent in 2016. A notable change from the previous study is that consumers globally have started putting price before sustainability as a motivator of their seafood purchase decisions. Digging into the figures on seafood consumers revealed a surprising gender divide on this issue, with men more motivated by price and women seeing sustainability as more important. However, consumers in Germany, Austria, China, Spain, UK, Switzerland, Italy and Sweden still place sustainability above price, regardless of their age or gender.

Seventy two percent of respondents agree that in order to save the oceans we need to consume seafood from sustainable sources and an increasing number believe that people should be prepared to switch to another type of fish if it is more sustainable (70% in 2018, up from 68% in 2016).

"This survey shows that consumers really do care about the oceans, but with so much confusion about how consumers can help, it’s more important than ever to cut through the clutter and deliver an easy way for people to choose sustainable seafood. With a rising consumer focus on price, and the finding that worldwide more than half of consumers report eating seafood weekly, it is critically important that they have a range of clearly labelled sustainable options at the right price point. We're pleased to see that trust in the blue MSC label remains very high and our focus continues to be to drive understanding of the label," said MSC’s head of marketing, Richard Stobart.

In a climate of persistently low consumer trust in business globally, trust in the blue MSC label remains high at 69% and understanding of the label has increased on average to 37% globally, up from 32% in 2016. Younger consumers are even more tuned in to choosing sustainable seafood, with 41% of 18-34-year-olds understanding what the MSC label means. Consumers also rate certification organisations third (after NGOs and scientists) for their contribution to protecting the oceans, with governments and large companies rated as contributing the least. Of those aware of the MSC label, 79% agree that the MSC is helping to ensure that fishers maintain healthy fish stocks and protect marine life.

GlobeScan’s tracking of consumer attitudes and beliefs shows that the proportion of people who believe their children and grandchildren will have a better quality of life than them has continued to drop since the start of the millennium. The MSC-commissioned research reflects this concern for the future, with 83% of seafood consumers globally agreeing that we need to protect seafood for future generations. 81% of those aware of the MSC believe it has a key role to play in achieving this.

Speaking about the research, Associate Director at GlobeScan, Abbie Curtis commented: "In a world of increasing consumer pessimism, people are looking for messages of hope and reassurance. We are happy to see that the theme of protecting seafood for future generations resonates strongly with consumers in all 22 countries surveyed. We’re also seeing that, in a low trust environment, consumers are increasingly looking to third parties to verify sustainability claims. This finding is consistent with a growing body of evidence from across GlobeScan’s work with retailers and non-profit clients.”

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