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Australia's seafood shopping habits revealed

Research shows key contrast between Australians’ passion for seafood and sustainability vs. our purchasing behaviours

  • Not acting on sustainability desires – 73% consume seafood at home on a monthly basis, but only 9% are buying ecolabelled fish and seafood products as often as they can1
  • Awareness a key barrier – 75% believe sustainability claims should be labelled by an independent organisation, yet only one in five notice ecolabels when shopping1
  • Aussies encouraged to drive positive change – with 49% prepared to pay more for sustainable seafood, the Marine Stewardship Council calls on locals to shop for the MSC blue fish tick1

New research from the Marine Stewardship Council (MSC) has revealed that while three-quarters (74%) of Australians believe we need to purchase certified sustainable seafood to safeguard our oceans, only one in ten (9%) currently buy ecolabelled fish and seafood products as often as they can1.

Conducted by GlobeScan for the MSC – an international, science based, non-profit organisation – the 2018 Consumer Insights Report is a global analysis of seafood consumption, and identified awareness of ecolabelling as a key barrier to driving responsible purchasing and healthy marine ecosystems. The report showed that while 75% of seafood consumers agree that sustainability claims should be clearly labelled by independent organisations, just one in five (21%) notice ecolabelled products when shopping1.

Anne Gabriel, MSC Program Director said that with the majority (73%) of households serving up seafood each month and half of seafood consumers (49%) prepared to pay more for sustainably fished seafood, there is a job to be done to drive ecolabelling visibility and the benefits of shopping sustainably1.

“Unfortunately, Australia ranks in the bottom four when it comes to awareness of the MSC ecolabel on seafood products and price perceptions of sustainably produced seafood remain a factor2. Indeed, price was identified as the fifth highest consideration for Aussies when buying seafood, pushing sustainability to seventh place. The research places Australia behind the likes of the UK, Germany and China, where sustainability is one of consumers’ top priorities, and shows that we really need to recognise the importance of considered purchasing.

“Making the switch to ecolabelled seafood as part of your weekly shop plays a vital part in preserving our precious marine ecosystem. We want consumers to know that paying a small price now will make a big difference to the future of our planet and for future generations.”

According to the research, more than half of Aussies recognise pollution (61%) and overfishing (51%) as primary threats to the oceans, and surprisingly just 15% said they are concerned by a potential seafood shortage in the future1.

“At the MSC, we are dedicated to safeguarding the world’s oceans and it is our mission to help maintain healthy fish populations, economies and ecosystems. Australia has some of the best fisheries management in the world, and the commitment to sustainability is reflected in the 16 Australian fisheries which have achieved MSC certification. 

“We are encouraging all Aussies to shop with confidence, knowing that choosing the blue fish tick will help stop overfishing and support livelihoods and food security, so we can enjoy wild seafood for years to come. More than 400 seafood products in Australia carry the MSC ecolabel, so there are lots of options for seafood lovers across the country!”

Here, Aussies are regularly buying canned fish (64%) as well as fresh (47%), with the majority of shoppers picking up their seafood from the local supermarket (90%)1.

Coles Head of Responsible Sourcing and Quality, James Whittaker said having sustainably sourced seafood on shelves and in their deli seafood counter is vitally important.

“We work with the MSC to give customers confidence to help make a better choice for our oceans. Well-managed and responsible fishing is essential for the future sustainability of our marine ecosystems. Independent certifications ensure potential impacts on marine health and the environment are carefully monitored. All Coles Own Brand seafood products have Marine Stewardship Council (MSC) or Aquaculture Stewardship Council (ASC) certification, or meet Coles Responsibly Sourced Seafood criteria.”

Simplot spokesperson, Katie Saunders said the strength of the canned fish market in Australia reinforces the need for consumers to be making sustainable choices.

“As the largest branded supplier of seafood products in Australia, John West is passionate about seafood and our oceans and is committed to safeguarding their future. Each can of John West tuna proudly displays its blue certification ecolabel. The Marine Stewardship Council is the world's leading certification program for wild-caught, sustainable seafood. Your choice of MSC-certified sustainable John West tuna helps contribute to a sustainable future for our oceans.”

10 reasons to choose the MSC blue fish tick:

  1. Oceans need to be protected: housing a variety of life and supporting the livelihoods of 1/10 of the world's population
  2. Marine ecosystems are under enormous pressure: unsustainable fishing is threatening fish populations, ocean habitats, coastal fishing communities and economies
  3. Support independently certified sustainable fisheries: to help ensure fish stocks and habitats are healthy and to secure fishing community livelihoods
  4. Research and science: MSC-certified fisheries are independently assessed by scientists and marine experts to ensure that they meet our standard for environmentally sustainable fishing
  5. Protect entire ecosystems: MSC-certified fisheries minimise their impacts on the whole marine environment to ensure healthy, thriving oceans for the future
  6. Buy with confidence: processors, retailers and restaurants must not mix MSC-certified seafood with uncertified products, ensuring that the product is correctly labelled
  7. Choice: hundreds of sustainable seafood products are available from all over the world – just look for the blue label in local supermarkets
  8. Product range: items with the blue MSC label range from canned tuna to lobster tails; perfect for all budgets
  9. Create change: purchasing MSC labelled seafood creates an incentive for more fisheries, retailers and restaurants to produce and sell certified sustainable seafood
  10. Fish for the future: sustainably sourced seafood means that there will be plenty more fish available for future generations to enjoy

Seafood lovers can support and reward sustainable fisheries by choosing seafood from 400+ blue MSC-labelled products (across fresh, chilled, frozen and canned) to help put an end to overfishing.


[1] The MSC Consumer Insights Survey was conducted by GlobeScan in January 2018.

2 Of the 21 countries tested.

About the Marine Stewardship Council (MSC)

The Marine Stewardship Council (MSC) is an international non-profit organisation. Our vision is for the world’s oceans to be teeming with life, and seafood supplies safeguarded for this and future generations. Our ecolabel and certification program recognises and rewards sustainable fishing practices and is helping create a more sustainable seafood market.

The blue MSC label on a seafood product means that:

  • It comes from a wild-catch fishery which has been independently certified to the MSC’s science-based standard for environmentally sustainable fishing
  • It’s fully traceable to a sustainable source

More than 350 fisheries in over 35 countries are certified to the MSC’s Standard. These fisheries have a combined annual seafood production of around 10 million metric tonnes, representing 12% of global marine wild catch. Over 30,000 seafood products worldwide carry the blue MSC label.

About GlobeScan

GlobeScan is an evidence-led strategy consultancy focused on stakeholder intelligence and engagement. Offering a suite of specialist research and advisory services, GlobeScan partners with clients to meet strategic objectives across reputation, sustainability and purpose.

GlobeScan Incorporated subscribes to the standards of ESOMAR, the world association of market, social and opinion researchers. ESOMAR sets minimum disclosure standards for studies that are released to the public or the media. The purpose is to maintain the integrity of market research by avoiding misleading interpretations.

About the Survey

This year’s survey uses the latest methodologies, sampling and question wording, developed by independent research and strategy consultancy, GlobeScan. It adds to the growing evidence that ocean sustainability is a topic with global relevance and ranks high in seafood purchase decisions. 

The survey was carried out between 25 January and 31 January 2018, using large and reliable national consumer research online panels to recruit respondents, with a minimum of 600 seafood consumers surveyed per country.

Consumers across 22 markets; Australia, Austria, Belgium, Canada, China, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway, Poland, Singapore, South Africa, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, UK and USA took part. New Zealand was surveyed for the first time this year – in a separate report.

The main sample of fish and seafood consumers comprised a total of 18,909 consumers (not including NZ) who said they or someone in their household had purchased fish or seafood in the last two months, out of a total sample size of 25,810. The figures were weighted to be nationally representative by gender, age, region and education.