Monday, January 13, 2014

Rant: Seafood Sustainability Not As Important Now?

Seafood sustainability has long been a dominant topic at the Seafood Expo North America and looking at their conference schedule for the upcoming show in March, that will continue. However, change may be coming, especially if the last Global Aquaculture Alliance's (GAA) GOAL meeting is any indication.

In the current issue of Urner Barry's Reporter (Winter 2014), there is an article adapted from an analysis by John Sackton and it discusses the focus at the GOAL meeting that was held in Paris in October 2013. Seafood sustainability was not the dominant topic at this conference but rather market issues took the forefront. How can more seafood be sold to consumers? How do you handle higher seafood prices?

This new focus certainly does not mean that no one cares about seafood sustainability anymore. Instead, it is a strong indication that sustainability has now become a given, that the seafood industry has generally accepted a commitment to only sell sustainable seafood. For example, it was stated that 95% of U.S. seafood is now recommended by the Monterey Bay Aquarium Seafood Watch. That is an impressive figure, and it continues to increase all the time.

This is indicative that our efforts seeking sustainability have worked to a large degree, that it has become strongly entrenched in the seafood industry. The industry will continue working to make everything more sustainable, addressing the areas which have the most need for improvement. There are still problems, but they are generally being addressed. Now, the industry can move forward with another significant problem, how to sell more seafood.

As I mentioned last week, annual seafood consumption has been on the decline, down to 14.6 pounds per person in 2012. The USDA Dietary Guidelines for Americans recommend that people should actually consume about 26 pounds of seafood, more than 11 pounds the current average consumption. It is clear that most Americans are not eating enough seafood so it is important for the seafood industry to find better ways to market seafood to consumers.

High prices of seafood are still one of the largest obstacles for consumers, and I have addressed that matter previously too. Recent reports also seem to indicate that seafood consumption in restaurants may actually be increasing, which means consumption at home has been decreasing. People also need to learn how to better prepare seafood at home, to make it a more economical meal. They need to learn how to appreciate underutilized species, which can be just as delicious as the more popular fish.

So if sustainability doesn't seem as common a topic, don't worry. It hasn't lost its importance. It has become more of a given in the seafood industry, a integral aspect that is part of the ongoing commitment of the seafood industry. And that is more reason why you should eat more seafood.

Addendum: The above mentioned 95% statistic on U.S. seafood sustainability has raised some uestions. Here is a link to the Seafood Watch article on that statistic. The article states: "Of the 242 U.S. fishery species assessed by the Monterey Bay Aquarium Seafood Watch program, 95% of commercial landings have earned a “Best Choice” or “Good Alternative” recommendation as environmentally responsible seafood options."

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