Fish for the future
When eating fish in a restaurant we expect it to be fresh and tasty. But is that all? A European Union project is finding out what else is crucial for consumers in regards to fish.
Wageningen's IMARES, the Institute for Marine Resources and Ecosystem Studies in the Netherlands, helps the industry inform consumers about animal welfare and ethical issues. Adriaan Kole, a Dutch consumer scientist, tries to find out what consumers actually know about environmentally friendly fish production, which takes into account the environment where the fish originates. The aim of the EU project is to provide consumers with information about the origin of the fish and time of fishing. For this reason special labels will be introduced by the end of 2007, which will show exactly where and when the fish was caught.
As global demand for fish is rising and overfishing threatens the world’s seas, fish farms offer a good alternative. Nevertheless, European citizens seem to prefer fish caught in the sea to those raised on farms as this method is associated with industrial poultry production and its perceived bad treatment of animals.
The aquaculture industry’s aim is to counter this negative image. Ejstrupholm fish farm in Denmark aims to be both environmentally friendly and kinder to the fish. The strong current in their water basins means the fish stay active and healthier, thus providing fresh and healthy fish for consumers. The farm’s modern filtration system also allows the facility to use significantly less water than conventional fish farms.
As soon as the fish reach a certain size they are delivered to Danforel, Europe’s biggest producer of smoked trout, where they are held in tanks filled with water from a nearby river, which means it is at the right temperature for the fish. Danforel's aim is to treat the trout in an ethically responsible manner, which leads to a higher quality product for the consumer, who is willing to pay more as a result. Another very important aspect of consumer satisfaction is the amount of information provided to the customer. The more details that are provided on where the fish comes from, and when and how it has been killed, the higher the consumers' trust is.
Unlike ethical poultry, pig or cattle breeding, ethical fish farming is still relatively unknown to the public. It’s the aim of the European researchers to raise awareness about the industry’s impacts on both the fish and the environment, as well as its importance for European food.