Biannual MSC survey reveals increasing consumer concern for ocean health

A woman in a kitchen with bags of MSC-certified seafood products
A Marine Stewardship Council survey found consumers are increasingly concerned about the health of the ocean, and many indicated they've changed buying habits in response | Photo courtesy of the Marine Stewardship Council/Anthony J Rayburn
6 Min

The latest biannual global survey conducted by the Marine Stewardship Council (MSC) indicates consumers are increasingly concerned about the health of the oceans and sea life. 

The independent survey was conducted by GlobeScan for the MSC and adds to years of data the organization has accumulated through biannual surveys. The survey asked questions to over 27,000 people in 23 different countries to see how their diets are changing and determine their thoughts on the ocean and sustainability. 

According to the latest data, consumers – particularly U.S. shoppers – are increasingly concerned about ocean sustainability.

“A big finding was that the concern for ocean health and overfishing has increased,” MSC Marketing Manager Kristen Stevens told SeafoodSource.

Historically, U.S. consumers cared less about the ocean than other biomes, but that's changing, according to Stevens.

“[They] are actually starting to be on par with some of our European colleagues,” Stevens said.

According to the survey data, the top three environmental concerns for U.S. consumers were pollution at 40 percent, the loss of forests and rainforests at 38 percent, and the decline in fish populations and sea life at 37 percent. 

GlobeScan Principal Christine LaMontagne said  90 percent of the survey's respondents expressed some level of concern about the state of the world’s oceans.

"That’s a record high,” LaMontagne told SeafoodSource.

LaMontagne said one of the key shifts indicated by the survey is that people are feeling more empowered to make dietary changes for environmental reasons. According to the data, more than 22,000 respondents said they had changed their diets in some way over the past few years, and 43 percent of those people said environmental concerns were one of the top three reasons they did so.

In the U.S., 34 percent of consumers changed diets for environmental reasons, up from 31 percent in the previous survey. LaMontagne also said buying behavior was also influenced by pricing, in line with past surveys.

Tinned fish consumption has spiked, which Stevens partially attributed to the “tinned fish date night” trend started on TikTok in 2023, which some companies have capitalized on for pushing their products to new audiences.

“Tinned and canned fish consumption [is] almost double what it was in 2022, in the last survey,” Stevens said.

Stevens said the trend is leading consumers to become more interested in seafood sustainability. 

“We think that is helping to grow awareness of sustainability and the MSC label,” Stevens said. “We just know commonly purchased species of tinned fish like tuna are often questioned when it comes to sustainability.”

Those questions could be leading people to recognize labels more or ask questions about the origin of the seafood they are purchasing, Stevens said.

The rise of sustainability-conscious brands and the awareness those brands bring to sustainability issues has also likely ... 

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