Seafood Choices Alliance Issues Overview of U.S. Seafood Consumption,
Consumer Attitudes Toward Sustainable Fishing


"For many Americans, the most salient connection they have to the sea
is the seafood they eat. Unlike many other food products, consumers are
often in the dark about where their seafood comes from, how it is
caught, and its impact on the natural environment. Better information
and more educated consumers are essential to achieving stronger
protection of the ocean and ensuring a lasting and diverse supply of
seafood. And the need for information has never been more urgent." So
begins The Marketplace for Sustainable Seafood: Growing Appetites and
Shrinking Seas, a report produced by the Seafood Choices Alliance as
part of a series of events June 2-8 to mark the alliance's second
anniversary.

The report notes that, from 1992-2001, seafood consumption in the
United States grew by approximately 450 million pounds (edible weight);
from 1996 to 2001, a $14 billion growth in expenditures pushed domestic
spending on seafood to an all-time high of $55 billion, according to
the report. The report cites the Food and Agriculture Organization
(FAO) of the United Nations as predicting that this upward trend in
U.S. seafood consumption will not slow down; indeed, the report argues
that population increases and changing demographics will likely cause
it to continue increasing.

The report includes the results of a 2001 survey on consumer attitudes
toward seafood which showed that "consumers had low awareness of
sustainability issues associated with the capture or production of
seafood," and "little about the source of the fish and shellfish they
eat." However, survey respondents "were willing to reduce their
consumption of or give up any type of seafood about which they were
asked, if they were to learn that it is overfished or caught in a way
that is harmful to other ocean creatures or the ocean environment. Even
the most popular items like shrimp and tuna had many consumers willing
to forgo them."

The report concludes that: "Although questions of sustainability are
not top-of-mind for seafood consumers, their receptivity to receiving
information about environmental implications of seafood consumption
indicates public tastes and purchasing habits can be harnessed to
create change in this market. Significant numbers of consumers are
willing to purchase "ocean-friendly" fish once they are aware there is
a choice to be made. The coming decade will be a critical period to
influence purchasing criteria in favor of sustainability as seafood
consumption rises and this market expands."

For Further Information: Joey Ritchie/Rachel Hopkins, Seafood Choices
Alliance. E-mail: jritchie@seafoodchoices.org,
rhopkins@seafoodchoices.org.