Image of seafood industry - not product

A big issue for the seafood industry at present is how it is perceived and viewed by some of the Australian community. While there is a small number of people who simply do not believe fishing or aquaculture is or can ever be sustainable because of the negative impact on the environment, a majority of the community see the fishing industry as necessary but just don't have enough information to know if it is sustainable or not. 

The fishing and aquaculture community has a lot to be proud of when it comes to the sustainable practices it uses and the quality of fish it produces for the Australian public. But are these great qualities reflected in the image of the industry?

These are the sorts of questions FRDC asked the industry during the consultation process.

What comes to mind when you consider the image of the industry? Do you think you have the same perception as others, such as consumers? Is the image others hold of the industry positive or negative, accurate or misinformed? Could marketing play a role in enhancing or improving the public image of the industry?

What do we mean when we talk about the image of the fishing and aquaculture industry? When we refer to the image of seafood we are talking about how the industry is perceived by others, both within the industry or outside of it.

There exists a lot of research that demonstrates the reality of how the fishing and aquaculture industry operates and how it is perceived by the general Australian public. As the fishing and aquaculture community knows, the reality of the industry is a strongly regulated, highly sustainable industry operating at world's best practice. However the public perception can be quite different and the information it is based on can be inaccurate at times.

Turning inaccurate perceptions around and improving perceptions of the industry to reflect its reality is possible and marketing can potentially play a vital role in achieving this.

Considerations for discussion

In this discussion forum we were keen to gather the industry's thoughts on the image of the industry and the role marketing could play in improving this. Some things to consider are:

  • What do you think of when you consider the image of the fishing and aquaculture industry?
  • Do you think your perception of the industry differs to others outside of the industry? Eg. Consumers, government?
  • Are these alternative perceptions of the industry fair or accurate?
  • How could existing perceptions of the industry be improved?

Other considerations were about the role of marketing:

  • Does the image of the industry have a value or a place in marketing?
  • What role could marketing play in improving or enhance the image of the industry?
  • To what extent do you think a marketing initiative would be of value to the industry or to your enterprise, or both?


These were some of the comments that emerged during the consultation:

Brett McCallum
Submitted by Brett McCallum on Mon, 2014-12-01 20:44

Loss of access to fishing and aquaculture areas because of a poor perception of the industry puts the entire industry at risk. We need broader community support for fishing access to continue. No access = no fish = no need for marketing.

Industry invests in new vessels, pots, echo sounders, GPS, etc but not in marketing it's image or importance to the community.

If everyone collectively contributed a reasonable amount over a reasonable period of time promoting a consitent positive message to the community think what could be done!

John Susman
Submitted by John Susman on Wed, 2014-11-12 15:53

Why isn't there a national position regarding 'sustainability'? This is one of the most significant 'image' issues the industry is challenged by.

Brett McCallum
Submitted by Brett McCallum on Mon, 2014-12-01 20:37

Are Australian fisheries managed sustainably in line with the world's best practice? This is one of the regular questions raised by members of the general community. Why are they not aware that Australia is one of the world leaders in fisheries management? Why do they get easily distracted by material from others that criticise the Australian seafood industry management practices?

Why?? Because as an industry we invest nothing on telling our story, giving the neccessary information to help the community understand how sustainable our industry really is and how we manage fisheries to keep it that way.

If every commercial fisherman, processor and retailer invested in promiting our industry, promoting our products and promoting our management systems we would have the neccessary capacity to make the difference we all know we need.

Renee Vajtauer
Submitted by Renee Vajtuer on Wed, 2014-11-12 15:59

Based on the National Fish Stock Report, yes. The science points to sustainable.

Anthony Mercer
Submitted by Anthony Mercer on Thu, 2014-11-13 16:00

Depends on who you ask

Rachel King
Submitted by Rachel King on Thu, 2014-11-13 16:03

This crosses over into policy/advocacy responsibility. Grower's most immediate need here is access to natural resource ie. "Can I continue to farm if the community is against me?". Image of seafood should be a sub-set of promoting/profiling a product.

Len Stephens
Submitted by Len Stephens on Thu, 2014-11-13 16:16

Industry image is a major concern, but is marketing the solution or should other approaches be tried?

Michelle Wenner
Submitted by Michelle Wenner on Thu, 2014-11-13 16:28

Marketing (depending how its defined) could be a very powerful tool to create a positive industry image through building public and consumer knowledge, acceptance, support and ultimately demand

Len Stephens
Submitted by Len Stephens on Fri, 2014-11-14 17:29

Okay, but building community trust needs respect and understanding of consumers values as well as injection of facts and sales messages into the discussion

Jonas Woolford
Submitted by Jonas Woolford on Sun, 2014-11-30 15:00

Consumers know seafood is good for them, that message is strong. Consumers get mixed messages about sustainability & quality, they are hesitant to purchase. Trust is critical. It seems that if they trust a producer/product or brand they purchase, or the further removed they are from any knowledge they purchase.

Paul Plafadellis
Submitted by Paul Plafadellis on Mon, 2015-03-02 09:53

As an industry, we feel any media coverage about seafood is more often than not negative. In the meeting this morning concerns were risen that we do not as of yet have a collective "voice" to argue our case back logically. I think this concern will be dismissed with the introduction of your marketing program.

For the long term, however, I believe we need to begin educating the public in all facets of the seafood industry; potential customers should learn the story behind the fishermen of the wild catch sector and how remarkably sustainable the Australian commercial fishing industry really is - if we can develop an almost-romantic hue to our story (complemented with facts), we will be well on the way to making people feel good about buying seafood again. As was mentioned in this morning's meeting, too often people assimilate commercial fishing with "super-trawlers" and a lack of sustainability. It would be nice to see activities similar to those performed by Ocean Watch throughout Australian ports and wharves - where schools visit local fishermen and are taught about the daily running of fishing vessel. This at least will give these future consumers an image they can relate to when deciding to buy fish from the supermarket or retailer.