Australian seafood industry makes sustainability push to target Western markets

Australian Trade and Investment Commission (Austrade) Senior Business Development Manager Manuel Barbera
Australian Trade and Investment Commission (Austrade) Senior Business Development Manager Manuel Barbera I Photo by Bhavana Scalia-Bruce/SeafoodSource
4 Min

After mainly focusing on supplying Asia with its products, the Australian seafood industry has made an expanded push into the U.S., Canadian, and European markets over the past few years, appealing to changing consumer trends across these landscapes.

Asia has historically been the primary market for Australian seafood due to its proximity and desire for premium products, but alternative shipping arrangements and sustainability initiatives have allowed the sector to expand beyond its Eastern partners, Australian Trade and Investment Commission (Austrade) Senior Business Development Manager Manuel Barbera told SeafoodSource at the 2024 Seafood Expo Global, which took place from 23 to 25 April in Barcelona, Spain.

“Over the last couple of years, globally, there have been supply chain issues with everything going on around the world, but in terms of seafood, the markets have developed for the Australian industry,” Barbera said.

The industry's sustainability initiatives have particularly appealed to North American and European markets, Austrade said.

“Many of these clients here today [at the 2024 Seafood Expo Global] are Marine Stewardship Council-certified [MSC] ... which is what's in demand in these new markets,” Austrade Regional Marketing Strategist Kelsey Hill told SeafoodSource. “Sustainability is key both from a foodservice and retail perspective. Buyers want to know they're buying sustainable products, and that's where Australia has a big role to play. By nature and design, the Australian regulations are very strict and some of the best in the world in terms of environmental practices.”

An increased number of Australian fisheries and Australian seafood exporters are achieving both MSC certification and Aquaculture Stewardship Council certifications and attempting to lower their carbon footprints, which can be difficult in a market as far away from the West as Australia, Hill said.

“While there are some carbonite miles, for example, like with sea freight ... we see innovation within most of these companies, including rapid freezing, to capture the highest-quality possible but then make sure that product travels very well – lightly and sustainably,” Hill said. 

Many see the distance from Australia to Europe as a barrier, but the focus and commitment to sustainability throughout the supply chain balances that out, Barbera said.

In addition to sustainability as a focal point, Australian seafood exports a range of premium products catering to diverse populations.

Abalone, western rock lobster, and octopus are three species native to Australia that the Australian seafood industry showcased at Seafood Expo Global as a part of the country's pavilion at the expo. 

“[Australia has] one of the very few MSC-certified octopuses in the world. There are only two MSC octopus fisheries in the world,” Barbera said. 

This push has been part of a larger strategy the Australian seafood industry has undergone to put itself on the global map – a strategy that Barbera ensures is mutually beneficial.

“When you partner with an Australian company, you have a reliable partner, and it's going to deliver the same quality year in and year out. We’re here for the long run,” Barbera said.

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