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An Yan

An Yan

MSC Program Director, China

Why China is increasingly demanding sustainable seafood from Australia

August 25, 2019

MSC Western Australia rock lobster promotion in China

Recently rock lobster from Western Australia was celebrated across China through a partnership with Shangri-La hotels. This is not the first time Australian seafood has been celebrated in China for its sustainability credentials.

To understand a bit more about the rise of sustainable seafood in China and the leading role that Australia plays, we interviewed An Yan, MSC Program Director for China.

What motivates you to work for the Marine Stewardship Council?

I have over 20 years of experience working with non-government organisations in China and have witnessed rapidly changing attitudes to sustainability. What gained almost zero attention 20 years ago is now a daily topic discussed by more and more people. Sustainable seafood was a very new subject seven years ago when I started the MSC program in China. Although it was challenging, I found opportunities to promote the MSC’s standards and label because of its global model and experience. I find it compelling that we can use the market to conserve our oceans. 

Why is Australian seafood important to Chinese consumers?

In China we value the fact that Australia has rich natural seafood sources, and there is a longstanding trading partnership between our two countries. Australian seafood suppliers have recognised the importance of sustainability and are willing and able to promote this concept in the Chinese market. For example, the Western Australian rock lobster fishery was the first fishery in the world to be certified to the MSC Standard for sustainability in 2000. This milestone shows Australia as leading the way in sustainable fishing globally. It also provides a good story to inspire and educate Chinese consumers and businesses.  

What is it about Western Rock lobster that is so popular with Chinese consumers and businesses?

Lobster is a unique species for the Chinese consumer, especially in South China, such as Guangdong and Fujian. This isn’t just because of the product itself, its freshness and taste, and so on, but also the name for lobster in Chinese is 'Dragon Shrimp'. This is symbolic of bravery and future. As such, Western Australian rock lobster is welcomed by high-end restaurants and hotels.

Tell us more about the recent partnership event with Shangri-La - what happened?

Working in partnership with the MSC, Shangri-La Group just launched a three-month joint promotion of MSC certified sustainable Western Australian rock lobster. The Geraldton Fishermen's Co-operative, together with representatives from the Australian Embassy and Austrade, attended the launch event in Jing’an Shangri-La, Shanghai on 8 August 2019. Another event was held in Beijing with 20 media and key influencers on 19 August. Chefs from both hotels presented lobster dishes to audiences, which generated more than 40 news articles and feature stories in the public media. The promotion will be implemented in selected hotels in Beijing, Shanghai, Shenzhen and Guangzhou, with the special MSC rock lobster menu item available to hotel diners until October.

How did this partnership come about?

Shangri-La group achieved the MSC Chain of Custody certification for traceability in June 2018. The certificate covers 53 sites across the Chinese mainland and the Hong Kong SAR. Before that, the MSC worked with Shangri-La on staff training, seafood sourcing analysis and a marketing approach for their sustainable seafood. Shangri-La is the first MSC certified hotel group with headquarters in Asia and could be the flagship for other certified and potential hotels to engage in the MSC’s sustainable seafood program.    

What’s been the reaction so far?

Several Shangri-La hotel sites have implemented the promotion in their restaurants. The program has reached 3 million people through positive media coverage. We will continue to maintain a positive dialogue with Shangri-La and hope to lead the entire hotel industry towards the MSC’s sustainable seafood program.  
 

What’s next for the MSC in China? 

As an emerging market for certified sustainable seafood, China plays a very important role now and in the future. There are huge opportunities to develop Chinese sustainable fisheries as well as move the whole seafood supply chain to a sustainable basis. We’re focused on driving more partnerships to enhance demand and provide more sustainable seafood products into the Chinese market. 

The Marine Stewardship Council is an international non-profit on a mission to end overfishing and ensure seafood forever. To do this, we work with scientists and partners to make change happen at scale. The MSC works around the world and has been operating in China since 2013. You can contact An Yan at an.yan@msc.org
Fisher standing in a boat throwing a net with the sun shining in the background

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