New Poll Finds Strong U.S. Consumer Support for Alaska Seafood, Disapproval for Marine Stewardship Council Policies
As Walmart executives meet with Alaska fishermen in Juneau, new findings from Alaska Salmon Now reinforce calls to end Walmart’s discriminatory MSC-only policy
8 January 2014 (Anchorage, AK)- A new nationwide poll of U.S. seafood consumers reveals resounding support for Alaska seafood as the gold-standard of healthy, sustainable seafood, with 66% rating its quality very high, and an overwhelming 97% viewing it as more sustainable or as-sustainable as other seafood. The poll was commissioned by Alaska Salmon Now, a grassroots collection of fishermen, consumers, and other representatives of the Alaska seafood industry that has advocated for Walmart to revise its misguided policy to only purchase seafood certified by the Marine Stewardship Council (MSC), a private European organization.
Much of Alaska’s salmon industry has voluntarily opted out of MSC’s costly and questionable certification process due to concerns about the organization’s increasingly high-priced and monopolistic business practices, instead opting to showcase its long-standing commitment to sustainability by adopting the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization-based (UN FAO) Responsible Fisheries Management (RFM) program for sustainability certification.
In addition to showing that Alaska remains the premium name in sustainable seafood, the poll found that that there is equal if not more consumer comfort with the UN FAO-based RFM certification program over MSC, whose policy of conditional certification of unsustainable fisheries was met with widespread disapproval.
Key findings include:
- 66% of U.S. seafood consumers rate the quality of Alaska seafood very high (8-10 on a 0-10 scale) and a nearly unanimous 97% consider it more sustainable (52%) or as sustainable (45%) as other seafood. 0% rate it low quality (0-3 on a 0-10 scale).
- Alaskan-caught seafood is preferred to Russian-caught seafood (one of the most likely replacements for Alaska salmon in Walmart stores as a result of MSC-only policies) by an overwhelming 87% to 1%, with 12% having no preference.
- 77% of U.S. seafood consumers have no preference when MSC and RFM are offered as alternative certification options, with RFM enjoying a 14% to 9% advantage over MSC from the remaining 23% of consumers.
- When offered as alternatives, 40% of seafood consumers prefer certification based on UN FAO standards versus only 19% based on standards set by a “private nonprofit organization”. 31% have no preference.
- Asked about ten seafood characteristics that might justify a 10% price premium, the three highest-rated characteristics seafood consumers chose are: a) caught in the wild (46%); b) certified sustainable (40%); and Alaska-caught (36%). 27% said regulation by NOAA would justify such a premium, while certification by RFM and MSC were supported by 18% and 15% respectively. (Respondents were allowed to choose multiple characteristics).
Additionally, the poll highlighted widespread consumer disapproval for MSC’s policy of certifying unsustainable fisheries that are on a path towards sustainability (known as “conditional certification”). A majority 53% of consumers believe only fisheries that are already fully sustainable should be certified as sustainable, whereas only 15% believe that fisheries that are taking clear steps towards sustainability should be certified as sustainable.
The findings are released as a number of senior Walmart executives are visiting Juneau, Alaska to meet with top government and seafood industry leaders, as well as Alaska fishermen, to discuss its sustainability policy. Walmart had previously committed at a U.S. Senate Hearing in September 2013 to provide a response by the end of the year as to whether the RFM certification program would meet its internal requirements, yet it has failed to provide an answer.
Alaska Senator Mark Begich wrote to Walmart CEO Doug McMillan yesterday to inform him that “I am still keenly interested in the answer to that question, as are producers of quality Alaska seafood”. He added, “Alaska’s commitment to seafood sustainability is second to none. Our management is science based, well documented, regulated by a transparent process, and has a lengthy record that attests to its success. I believe it is important for Walmart to sell U.S. sourced, sustainable seafood regardless of whether suppliers choose to pay for a third party label.
The online survey of a census-representative sample (n=1,031) of U.S. seafood consumers was conducted by Washington, DC based pollster Prime Group between December 17 and December 23, 2013. The margin of error is +/- 3.1 percentage points at the 95% confidence level.
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About Alaska Salmon Now
“Alaska Salmon Now” is a diverse grassroots organization comprised of American consumers, hardworking fishing families from across Alaska, and other interested parties who are demanding Walmart reverse its controversial sustainability policy that has hurt American jobs and consumers seeking access to the world’s gold standard of sustainable seafood, Alaska salmon.
About Prime Group
Prime Group has been conducting innovative and reliable public opinion and market research in the U.S. and abroad for more than twenty years. Our clients have included U.S. presidential candidates, Fortune 100 companies, and leading nonprofits.