The global retail value of sustainable seafood reached $11.5bn last year, boosted by corporate commitments to sustainable sourcing, according to a study.
The report, by the International Institute for Sustainable Development, said demand for sustainable seafood was being driven by manufacturers and retailers in developed countries.
The overall trade value of the seafood sector was estimated at $140bn last year, the report said, with around 10-12% of the world’s population directly or indirectly dependent on seafood for their livelihoods.
According to the study, the market for certified seafood – seafood that has been independently certified as sustainably sourced – grew from 0.5% of global production in 2003 to 14% in 2015. This represents a growth rate of 35% per year, 10 times faster than growth of global seafood production, the study said.
The report analysed the market and performance characteristics of international sustainability standards operating across both the wild catch and aquaculture sectors. It also notes the call for the development of a “blue economy” based on the understanding that the world’s oceans form the foundation of global economic sustainability.
The study said global demand for sustainable seafood was driven almost entirely by Japan, North America and Europe, and short-term growth in demand was likely to be driven by continuing efforts to fulfil corporate commitments and market access requirements, rather than by consumers.
Around 80% of all seafood is produced in developing countries, but North America and Europe account for 63% of certified seafood destined for retail markets. Asia accounts for 69% of global seafood production but only 11% of certified production.
Some 80% of certified seafood is caught wild but certified aquaculture, ie fish farming, is growing twice as fast as certified wild catch. The study predicted certified aquaculture would dominate growth for the foreseeable future because it did not require the stock assessment associated with wild catch. It said Vietnam and China were expected to significantly increase certified supply in the coming years.
“Regardless of where certified aquaculture is sourced from, the absence of the stock assessment barriers facing wild catch certification positions aquaculture favourably as a low-cost solution for the supply of certified seafood moving forward,” the report said.