By Chris Dove, SeafoodSource contributing editor, reporting from Malaga, Spain
Published on 20 March, 2013
Aiming to expand consumers’ range of healthy, affordable seafood products, Spain’s fisheries ministry has embarked on a Strategic Plan for Aquaculture that will tackle the sector’s demands and challenges.
Operating on a multi-annual basis, the plan will take a multidisciplinary, integrated approach involving central and regional administrations, industry, researchers, NGOs, marketers and consumers, to be presented to the European Commission by the end of the year.
As an example of a multidisciplinary, integrated approach in action, the Spanish section of the Marine Stewardship Council joined forces with Spanish supermarket Eroski last month in launching a three-week consumer awareness campaign to protect the sustainability of the oceans.
A year since becoming Spain’s first retailer to carry MSC labeled products on its fresh fish counters, Eroski is introducing MSC certified refrigerated hake and haddock and MSC certified hake and cod under the Findus brand in its freezer section this year.
Until 15 March, sustainably caught seafoods bearing the MSC blue eco-label certifying wild species’ origin and traceability are being introduced to consumers at point-of-sale in 30 Eroski stores in the Basque Country and Navarra (northeast). Promotional activities, games, gifts, posters and other materials will inform consumers about their impact on future marine resources, enabling them to make the best environmental seafood choices.
Laura Rodríguez, MSC Spain and Portugal country manager, said she is pleased with the campaign’s first-week results indicating a healthy 6 percent increase in consumer awareness of the blue eco-label in participating outlets. Rodríguez explained that such joint marketing campaigns enable consumers to identify with the label in their daily shopping and commit to participating brands.
Dove: With one of the highest levels of fish consumption in Europe, how has Spain met the challenges of sustainable supply?
Rodríguez: According to the FAO, Spain has the second highest seafood consumption in Europe at about 43 kilograms per capita. To achieve sustainable supply, it’s very important to safeguard marine resources and ensure that catches are maintained at a level that ensures fish stocks, and the ecosystems on which they depend, remain healthy and productive for our own and future generations.
When Eroski’s point of sale activities officially end on 15 March, what consumer feedback will you be anticipating?
Rodríguez: According to daily reports sent by the campaign promoters, we’ve found that consumers are concerned about the health of our oceans and are very receptive to eating sustainably. Early results are a good indicator that the campaign works well for consumers. We look forward to the official results at the end of the campaign.
In recent blind tastings, Spanish consumers preferred the taste of farmed sea bass, turbot, gilthead bream and sea bream to wild-caught. How can this hurdle be overcome given that the MSC blue eco-label certifies the sustainability of wild species?
Rodríguez: Aquaculture depends on feed of animal origin, which also remains dependent on extractive fishing, so sustainable wild fisheries remain essential to meet seafood consumption needs. Among the selection criteria for consumers choosing a product, the MSC blue eco-label assesses sustainability — as quality, taste and product category are not measured by the MSC, we therefore don’t consider them an obstacle.
Does Spaniards’ acceptance of farmed seafood prove that farmers and sustainability lobby groups are achieving their objectives?
Rodríguez: The MSC doesn’t consider sustainability a generic concept, the evaluation process in certifying a fishery as sustainable is very demanding and long, lasting about a year due to the severity of our environmental standards in measuring a numerical scale of sustainability and evaluating different indicators. For this reason, we can say it is correct that the MSC eco-label allows Spaniards to ensure that the products they buy are sustainable and environmentally friendly.