Over 80 per cent of consumers consider the environmental impact of seafood as an important factor in their purchasing decisions, according to a new study.
Commissioned by the Seafood Choices Alliance, the survey highlights the growing importance of labelling in a well-informed consumer society.
Indeed, customers said that reassurance is more important than price, with 40 per cent claiming they would be willing to pay between 5 and 10 per cent more for seafood identified as eco-friendly.
Conducted in the UK, Germany and Spain, the study also found an emerging activism for protecting the ocean. Some 95 per cent of consumers and 85 per cent of seafood professionals say they want more information about how to buy sustainable seafood.
"These findings highlight the leading role that European seafood professionals and consumers are playing to preserve the ocean through the choices they bring to the dinner table," said Michael Boots, director of the Seafood Choices Alliance.
"By working with the industry to help source ocean-friendly seafood, we will ensure a lasting supply that is good for the ocean, good for business, and good for consumers."
The Seafood Choices Alliance, which conducted the survey in partnership with Greenpeace, the Marine Conservation Society, WWF and the North Sea Foundation, is a non-profit ocean conservation organisation. It therefore has a clear interest in this debate.
Nonetheless, the organisations involved in the survey believe that the food industry should take heed of the findings.
"Seafood retailers like ASDA and others involved in buying and selling unsustainable seafood ignore this research at their peril," said Oliver Knowles, Greenpeace UK Oceans Campaigner.
"It is clear that consumers care greatly about the environmental impacts of the seafood they eat, and are willing to pay more to ensure the fish they consume isn't harming the oceans."
Seafood consumption in Europe remains high, with three-quarters of polled consumers eating seafood once a week or more. It is consistently seen as a healthy alternative to meat.
Supermarkets are the key source of seafood in Germany and UK, rivalled by market stalls in Spain. Unlike the US, restaurants are not central to the consumption of seafood in these countries.
The report also says that consumers want government and retailers to bear most of the responsibility for providing eco-friendly seafood choices. And they want information from environmental groups that they can act on at the supermarket, with 82 per cent saying these groups are a reliable and trustworthy source.