Austral Fisheries achieves hefty premium on first carbon-neutral toothfish and shrimp

The first shipment of “carbon-neutral” seafood from Austral Fisheries in Sydney, Australia, achieved a premium of more than 10 percent over the supplier’s typical shipment, the company reported recently.

The supplier of Marine Stewardship Council (MCS)-certified toothfish and prawns achieved carbon-neutral program certification from the Australian government in April of this year and then made the world’s first carbon-neutral seafood sale in June, shipping 145 metric tons of Heard Island toothfish to Hai Bao International and Sunkfa International in China, as well as Mark Foods in the United States.

The 10 percent premium “showed the commitment and loyalty that our customers have for the things that we do,” Austral Fisheries CEO David Carter told SeafoodSource.

Carbon neutrality, or having no net carbon footprint, is achieved by balancing the amount of carbon released from a business with an equivalent amount sequestered or offset carbon, Carter said.

“In our case, the vast majority of the carbon we emit is from diesel fuel on our fishing vessels, with the rest made up of refrigerant gases on board, electricity in our offices, staff and crew travel, transport of our products, and so on,” the company said on its website.

To offset its carbon dioxide emissions, Austral purchased carbon credits from Carbon Neutral Pty Ltd., which will plant around 190,000 trees annually as part of an Australian reforestation program on the company’s behalf.

“Many of the early concerns around sustainability have been solved and, with the success of certification schemes such as the Marine Stewardship Council, progressive businesses need to be looking to ‘what is next,’” Carter said. “For us, it was to recognize the energy intensity of our particular operation with trawlers and long-distance fleets and then to do something about that.”

Austral’s “luxury brands,” Glacier 51 toothfish and Skull Island tiger prawns, are sold to high-end restaurants and retailers, Carter said.

“[That’s] where provenance and efficacy and a solid sustainability story are valued and adding carbon neutral to the credentials of these products is a logical next step,” Carter said. “We also feel that, over time, consumers will need to understand more about the impact that their protein choices have on the planet, and we hope to be ready for when that awakening takes place. “

Carter expects greater demand for carbon-neutral seafood from U.S. restaurants and retailers in the near-future, but said his company is also “very aware of an important and growing customer base in China, who are well-informed, appreciate these fine seafood products and have the cash that allows them to ‘do the right thing.’”

Meanwhile, James Findlay, CEO of the Australia Fisheries Management Authority, said he appreciated his country’s fishing industry supporting carbon-neutral fishing practices.
“AFMA’s science-based management of Commonwealth commercial fisheries ensures that they are some of the best-managed in the world,” Findlay said. “I am pleased that companies like Austral are prepared to lead the world when it comes to reducing the environmental effects of fishing.”


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