18 September 2017
USC Tropical Aquaculture Researchers (USC TAR) have been delving into consumer science for the marine aquarium trade. Last year, marine aquarists from all over the world were invited to participate in an online survey to help determine the main attributes that influence fish purchase decisions.
What matters most? Fish health came out on top as the most important attribute for a prospective aquarium addition. Health was closely followed by aquarium suitability of a specimen and the species on offer, all ranking between ‘very’ to ‘extremely’ important.
Most other attributes assessed were ranked between ‘moderately’ and ‘very’ important, with the exception of location of origin, fish rarity, and whether a fish was wild caught. These traits were ranked ‘slightly’ to ‘moderately’ important.
Aquaculture in demand
The USC TAR team was excited to see consumers considered aquaculture supply of a given fish far more important than wild caught supply. Destructive fishing techniques and unsustainable harvests remain problematic for some wild-caught supply chains. Aquaculture production is seen as a solution for some species, but successful large-scale culture methods have only been developed for a small portion of the traded fish diversity.
Even with aquaculture, concern remains for appropriate handling and husbandry of the cultured fish and the environmental sustainability of practice. Perhaps for these reasons, consumers placed a higher level of importance on certification schemes conveying industry best practice and environmental sustainability themes.
Sustainability price tag
When consumers were asked how deep into their pockets they would reach to support certification schemes that convey industry best practice or environmental sustainability, the answers averaged an 18% premium over uncertified fish.
Individual responses were quite varied, ranging from an unwillingness to pay any premium to a willingness to pay twice the purchase price for a certified fish. This suggests there is a demand by at least a portion of the aquarium market for fish certified to be sustainably-supplied.
USC TAR will continue to do its part, pursuing research to support development of sustainable aquaculture production for the aquarium trade.
For a more detailed analysis of the survey, please read our full length article in Fisheries Research or contact the primary author Thane Militz e:firstname.lastname@example.org.