The Marine Stewardship Council (MSC) and the Aquaculture Stewardship Council (ASC) today hosted an inaugural joint event at Seafood Expo Global.
Seafood Futures Forum, attended by close to 400 delegates, showcased market trends and efforts to build consumer demand for responsibly produced and sustainably sourced seafood.
Panellists from market leaders, IKEA, Hilton Wolrdwide and Carrefour explained the role of consumer demand in driving their commitment to ASC and MSC certified seafood. Last year IKEA, the world’s largest furniture retailer, committed to serving MSC and ASC certified seafood in more than 370 of their stores in 43 countries. In November, Hilton Worldwide became the first global hotel company to serve MSC labelled cod across its restaurants in the UK, Netherlands and Belgium. Europe’s largest food retailer, Carrefour is also increasing supply of MSC and ASC labelled seafood across its stores in Belgium, France and Italy, building on previous commitments to certified seafood.
Lidl also received positive recognition. 10 years after introducing its first MSC labelled own brand products, Lidl continues to reach new heights in sustainable and responsibly sourced seafood. From January 2017, Lidl Germany will only sell MSC certified products in their permanent own-brand fresh and frozen fish range. They also extended their ambition to include farmed seafood, and will only sell products certified either ASC or organic by January 2018.
Significant certified seafood commitments from influential seafood producers and brands also include leading retailers such as Colruyt Group in Belgium, AEON in Japan, Coles in Australia and Dutch retailer Albert Heijn and Jumbo.
“The ASC programme has gone from strength to strength. Our exceptional growth to date would not have been possible without the commitment of great partners who share our goal of safeguarding the ecosystem and protecting the natural environment for future generations,” said Esther Luiten, ASC Commercial Manager.
Increasing supply of MSC and ASC certified seafood
These commercial commitments come off the back of increasing supply in both MSC and ASC certified seafood. In the last year, the MSC has seen 40 new fisheries certified, increasing the available volume of MSC certified seafood by 15%. Large seafood producers including South African hake and Alaskan pollock have also been recertified, demonstrating the ongoing value that certification brings to fisheries. Additionally, small scale fishery projects, such as the newly launched Project Medfish are increasing knowledge and aiding fisheries moving towards sustainability.
The number of ASC certified farms has grown exponentially in the last five years since the tilapia standard was launched in 2012. Since April 2015, the number of ASC certified farms has grown from 158 to 247, an increase of over 55% in one year. The ASC has also expanded into new countries and certified farms are now found in Japan, the US and Germany.
Consumer demand for certified seafood
“Continued commitments by business leaders to sustainable seafood are having real impact in the way our oceans are fished. But we also recognise that consumer awareness and demand is vital to supporting this positive action. As part of strengthening our public engagement efforts, we commissioned our largest ever consumer perceptions study. Early global results show consumers want sustainable seafood and independent labels on seafood products.” said Nicolas Guichoux, MSC’s Global Commercial Director.
The survey, undertaken by research consultancy, GlobeScan, questioned 16,000 seafood consumers in 21 countries. Preliminary findings show that 72% believe that, to save the oceans, we have to consume seafood only from sustainable sources. About two-thirds said they understand the term ‘sustainable’ (67%) when seen on a product, and believe that people should be prepared to change the seafood they buy to more sustainable options (68%).
Almost as many (62%) said ecolabels raise their confidence and trust in a brand, and that independent verification was important to support supermarket and brand claims about sustainability (68%). NGOs and scientists are perceived as contributing the most to protecting the oceans.
ASC also recognised that with increased supply comes growing interest from leading companies to engage consumers and grow their understanding about certified seafood. To service partners, ASC launched its first marketing toolkit at the opening of Seafood Expo Global.
“Over the next year, we will intensify our cooperation with partners to build consumer understanding that by making a conscious choice to buy certified seafood they become a vital partner in our efforts to bring real change to the industry. The message is simple, by choosing ASC certified farmed fish, consumers help ensure the health of the oceans and the livelihoods of local communities,” added Esther Luiten.