In response to consumer concerns about the sustainability of Australian-sourced seafood we derive a set of criteria within an explicit decision-process that can be used to determine whether locally farmed and wild-caught Australian seafood products meet standards of ecological sustainability and Ecologically Sustainable Development. These criteria substantially address the ecological deficiencies we identified in other systems commonly used for assessing seafood sustainability. The criteria address the issues that are relevant to local seafood production, and are populated with indicators (metrics) and benchmarks relevant to the Australian context. The indicators establish performance thresholds drawn from public domain data about the products, including observed empirical data and proxies, and include default decisions to be applied in the absence of adequate information. This decision structure is set within a peer-reviewed expert jury decision-making process. The criteria, decision process and decision outcomes from assessment of a number of pilot products were tested in a real seafood market (Melbourne), where we found a high level of producer, reseller and consumer acceptance of the judgements and ratings. The use of ecologically-derived standards results in several outcomes that differ from those of other seafood assessment systems, especially those assessments more focused on production standards, such as government, industry and NGO-supported programs, popularly used in Australia and worldwide. We conclude that despite high levels of uncertainty surrounding many of the population parameters, ecological patterns and processes, empirical cost-effective proxies can be used to reasonably estimate a form of sustainability that matches consumer interests/expectations for production of fresh local seafood. Despite the plethora of industry and government programs, there remains a significant but presently unmet consumer demand for ecologically-based, technically robust, independently derived, and readily available information about the local sustainability attributes of Australian wild-caught and farmed fresh seafood.
(after first author, all authors are listed alphabetically)