Oceana gives a window into the dark side of seafood

The nonprofit ramps up its advocacy efforts to get action on issues like forced labour and overfishing.

Oceana Canada 2022

Non-profit Oceana is putting pressure on the government to bring to light the dark underbelly of the seafood industry.

Oceana has a mandate to restore the world’s oceans, and the new “Stop Seafood Exploitation” campaign aims to draw attention to key sector issues such as overfishing, mislabeling, criminality and substandard working conditions, all shot through a ship’s porthole.

Elemental is behind the campaign work, and its CD, Elizabeth Dundas Hall, tells strategy “Stop Seafood Exploitation” is literally a window into shady practices in the fishing industry, with a visual that’s typical of a standard seafood restaurant.

The film brings to life the often destructive path that some of the seafood in Canada can take from boat to plate, she says.

“We had to give [people] a bit of a shocker,” Dundas Hall says. “We had to give them a jolt, however, we want to give people hope and this isn’t a lost cause.”

The campaign is informed by Oceana insights that its constituency overwhelmingly support seafood traceability and want the government to act. Nearly 90% of Canadians support the federal government taking action to prevent products of forced, unpaid labour being sold in Canada, while 92% of Canadians also want to see information about where, when and how seafood products were caught on seafood labels. However, it says, changes are slow to implement.

There are two versions of a 60-second short film, two 15-second  videos shown on social, with boosted social posts in the form of carousels, videos and statics to extend reach.

To make sure it optimized the campaign, Dundas Hall says Elemental, which has worked on the organization’s seafood fraud campaign for five years, stretched the budget. It focused on engaged demographic segments of conscious consumers interested in advocacy, who can be champions that will lean on the federal government.

The team provided “constant supervision” to make sure the media dollars worked as hard as possible.

The stakes and the focus is much bigger than in past years, Dundas Hall says, as previous Oceana campaigns were more focused on mislabeling than the serious human rights abuses rampant in global fishing.

According to the organization, a 2021 DNA investigation revealed that 46% of seafood samples from Toronto, Ottawa, Montreal and Halifax were mislabeled. This is negligibly different from samples taken between 2017 and 2019, meaning that more government action is immediately required in the form of bolstering traceability standards to match American and European counterparts.

Canada, one of the world’s largest fishing nations, also has the world’s longest coastline and is responsible for 2.76 million square kilometers of ocean.