Low demand for certified aquaculture products: one of the leading causes of the low rate of Sustainable production certification

By: Salvador Meza *

Today, with a relatively low budget, using digital marketing throughinfluencers in specific consumer communities, powerful messagescan be sent to show the environmental danger that non-certified assustainably produced fish and shellfish consumption continuity can mean for the world.

Despite all the efforts made by NGOs, certifying companies, private certifiers, and activists within the aquaculture industry, the two largest sustainability certification groups, the Aquaculture Stewardship Council (ASC), and the standards of the Best Aquaculture Practices of the Global Aquaculture Alliance (GAA- BAP), only represent 3% of world aquaculture production.

According to a recent analysis on the development of aquaculture in the last two decades, the low levels of compliance have been attributed to a series of factors enlisted here: the lack of resources to invest in changes and adaptations towards sustainability standards, the low demand for certified products in the market, the little willingness of consumers to pay more for these products, the low levels of literacy and inadequate administrative skills required to monitor and report on the topic, and the environmental risks of production beyond the control of the producer.

The challenge is not easy; the causes that maintain such a low level of certified world aquaculture production cannot be solved in the short or medium term and not with the speed that a world in full exploitation of its natural resources requires.

If we analyze this situation well, we could conclude that perhaps the fastest way to accelerate changes in aquaculture production processes in general towards models that comply with the established environmental and social sustainability protocols is to make the market demand it and, therefore, consequently pay it.

Suppose it is not the demand for sustainable aquaculture products where the financial resources necessary to convert current production to sustainable production are going to come from. In that case, there is nowhere to get that money. It will not come from the banks, the governments, the NGOs, or the aquaculture companies, which with difficulties remain afloat as they are.

One option could be to turn to fish and seafood suppliers and distributors. They are in the service sector, not in the primary production sector, like aquaculture producers; although there are some vertically integrated aquaculture companies, most producers remain in the primary industry.

“These companies that supply and distribute fish and shellfish are closest to the market and can send the message of sustainability further in the consumer communities.”

We have to spread the word to make consumers know the importance of consuming products with sustainability certifications. Today there are many communication channels to send these messages, which the primary producers are far from knowing or using. Still, the supply and distribution companies have them closer and may have the necessary resources to use them.

Today, with a relatively low budget, using digital marketing through influencers in specific consumer communities, powerful messages can be sent to show the environmental danger that non-certified as sustainably produced fish and shellfish consumption continuity can mean for the world.

It is an emergency. Consumers must be moved towards products that assure them that they have been produced under social and environmental security standards and that consuming them promotes their permanence in the market and the environment.

Salvador Meza is Editor & Publisher of Aquaculture Magazine, and of the Spanish language industry magazine Panorama Acuicola.

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