Skip to main content

Environmental concerns prompting almost half of consumers to switch diets, amid growing anxiety about state of the ocean

Nearly half of shoppers who are changing what they eat are doing so because of concerns about the environment according to a new global survey by the Marine Stewardship Council (MSC), released ahead of the UN’s World Oceans Day on Saturday (8 June). 

Consumers are more conscious than ever about how their food choices impact the planet. Researchers surveyed over 27,000 people across 23 countries and asked them if their diets were changing. Of the more than 22,000 people who said yes, 43% of them said it was down to environmental reasons, alongside health and price.  

The biggest change is in red meat, like beef and lamb, with 39% of all shoppers surveyed cutting their consumption over the past two years and 37% say they are eating more vegetables. One in ten of those surveyed say they are eating more seafood, but three in ten said they are eating less. Looking forward, over a quarter (27%) of respondents say they would eat more seafood in future if they knew it wasn't causing harm to the ocean. 

Anxiety about the state of the world’s oceans among seafood consumers is on the rise, with almost half (48%) saying they are concerned about overfishing and just over a third concerned about the impact of climate change (35%).  People are less optimistic that the ocean can be saved from irreversible harm – with only 35% of respondents believing this can be done, down 13% from when the survey was carried out in 2022.  

Despite their gloomy outlook, awareness of recent extreme weather events, including record-breaking temperatures, can also be motivating, with nearly two-thirds (64%) saying they feel an increased desire to protect the marine environment.  

In terms of solutions, there is a good understanding of the role of sustainable fishing; 55% of seafood consumers associate it with ensuring that endangered or vulnerable species are better protected, whilst 54% recognise that it includes maintaining healthy, thriving fish populations.  

Rupert Howes, Chief Executive of the MSC, said: “The results of the survey show a growing public concern about the state of our ocean. Protecting it, and the diversity of life within it is vital for the health of the planet. We need to re-double our collective efforts to tackle overfishing and the threat it poses. Incentivising positive change, through recognising and rewarding sustainable fisheries is vital for progress. By supporting sustainable fisheries, we can all play a part in improving the ocean environment as well as protecting a valuable food resource for this and future generations.” 

The findings of the research, commissioned by the MSC were carried out by GlobeScan, a global insight and advisory consultancy.  

Caroline Holme, Executive Director at GlobeScan, said: “These results mirror our broader findings in our annual healthy and sustainable living study and the public’s perception of the challenges that the world faces. Even amid a cost-of-living crisis, environmental issues are of major concern to consumers.” 

MSC certified fisheries have made more than 400 improvements to their fishing practises in the last three years, including to protect endangered marine species and vulnerable habitats. Fishers certified to MSC’s global, science-based fisheries standard, are required to manage fish stocks sustainably and minimize impacts on the wider marine environment. 

The ocean covers over 70% of the planet and produces at least 50% of the planet’s oxygen. It is home to most of earth’s biodiversity and is the main source of protein for more than a billion people around the world.