Fair Trade Fish: Consumer Support for Broader Seafood Sustainability

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Fish and Fisheries

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Sustainable seafood initiatives began with efforts to promote and certify seafood sourced from well‐managed stocks caught with a reduced impact on the marine environment. More recently, social equity in fisheries has been the subject of increased concern with suggestions that seafood cannot be certified as sustainable if its production results in social harm, such as unfair wages or the use of forced or child labour. Together with local seafood, which has been promoted as an eco‐friendly and socially conscious alternative to globally sourced seafood, these initiatives signal a growing interest in fisheries as a social–ecological system. However, this increasingly complex landscape of environmental sustainability and social justice may be difficult for the public and seafood consumers to navigate. Here, we investigate consumer understanding of and responsiveness to a range of seafood sustainability initiatives by testing preferences and willingness to pay (WTP) for seafood across the three types of sustainability: ecological sustainability, local origin and social sustainability. More than half of respondents demonstrated good understandings of both ecological sustainability and social sustainability with respect to seafood, and respondents were willing to pay more for all three types of sustainability. However, WTP for social sustainability benefits was the lowest, and consumers perceived a high degree of overlap of these benefits with those from locally sourced seafood. These results indicate that seafood certification taking a system‐wide approach has potential to succeed, but that it will need to emerge in concert with the increased public education about social problems associated with globalized fisheries.

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