The Global Seafood Alliance’s Best Aquaculture Practices label released its first consumer-facing website. The website is part of the campaign, Healthy Fish, Healthy Planet, Healthy You. The purpose of the campaign is to increase awareness of the BAP label. The campaign consists of traditional media outreach, social media, influencer engagement, and a toolkit with print and digital assets. Launched in mid-April, the campaign culminated with U.S. National Seafood Month last October.
The site contains information on the BAP certification program, aquaculture, seafood recipes, and the benefits of eating seafood. It includes a “how to page” with information for BAP retail and food service partners. GSA will also launch a social media campaign called “Are You Aqua Cultured?” to encourage consumers to educate themselves about farmed seafood.
Is the BAP Label Reliable?
What exactly is certification? According to the UN, it is a process “by which a third party gives written assurance that a product, process or service conforms with certain standards.” BAP defines its certification program addresses the “four key areas of sustainability—environmental, social, food safety, and animal health and welfare—at each step of the aquaculture production chain.”
More and more people in the U.S. are swapping seafood for meat. A study by Changing Tastes found that seafood is the preferred choice of Americans who want to eat less meat. Researchers studied 3,000 adult consumers and 400 purchasing decision-makers in food service. They discovered that nearly one-third of Americans are “substantially” interested in eating less meat, and 39 percent want to substitute meat with seafood. Researchers also found that eco-labels promoting responsible seafood production often influence Americans to pick one product or brand over another.
Many of us want sustainable seafood, and many of us have favorable views of the BAP label. Forty-six percent of Americans have favorable views of retail channels that display the BAP labels, while 64 percent would choose products with the BAP label. Fifty-six percent of food service operators have complimentary views of the BAP label. Are American consumers and food service operators correct in placing so much confidence in the BAP label?
Food Print, a project of the GRACE Communications Foundation, has mixed reviews of the BAP label. It acknowledges that the BAP label “covers important issues like stocking densities and tracking.” However, it points out that BAP certification “does not address many major fish feed issues, does not prohibit drug use, and does not address the most egregious labor practices.”
An Alternative to Labels?
Food Print ranks Monterey Bay Aquarium’s Seafood Watch program as the top way to pick sustainable seafood. It is not a label appearing on the product but a grading system that looks at factors such as overfishing, bycatch, impact on food webs, and habitat disturbance. It ranks fish into three categories: best choice, good alternative, and avoid. The program focuses on specific regions and catch methods.
Although the Seafood Watch program is not as handy as looking for a certification label, it is more reliable. For example, when I enter salmon into the program’s system, it recommends wild-caught and gives me tips on determining if it’s imported or farmed. I learned from the recommendations that all Atlantic salmon is farmed and all wild-caught salmon is from the Pacific Ocean and adjacent waters. With specific salmon to avoid, I feel confident I can go into a grocery store and buy sustainable salmon.