A new study suggests that sustainability themes, delivered by trusted sources, can convert naysayers regarding aquaculture into supporters. The investigation was published by the Aquarium of the Pacific, in Long Beach, California, United States (US), and collaborators from the School for the Environment at the University of Massachusetts Boston, University of Southern California Sea Grant Program, and the Department of Environmental Studies and Sciences at Santa Clara University.
The study focused on people residing in the western and northeastern coastal states of the US, the very stakeholders who would need to live with an expanded marine farming industry. The study reveals how perceptions of seafood and seaweed farming can change in respondents and who they saw as the most trusted sources to deliver those messages.
“Interestingly, economic benefits and provision of jobs were not the benefits that survey respondents found most persuasive. Instead, what changed minds was messages emphasizing the environmental benefits of seafood and seaweed farming,” said Peter Kareiva, environmental scientist and author on this study, as well as president of the Aquarium of the Pacific.
The paper entitled “Are all benefits equal? An exploratory analysis of coastal perspectives of seafood farming expansion in the United States” is now published in The Journal of the World Aquaculture Society and is available for free.
Levels of familiarity
Sustainable seafood and seaweed farming are environmentally friendly alternatives to land-based food. The key here is sustainable. Unfamiliarity and outdated narratives about harmful aquaculture or seafood farming have hindered social acceptance of the aquaculture industry in the US.
The benefits include having a stable and well-managed ecofriendly alternative to land-based foods and providing a sustainable alternative to wild fisheries. Altogether, the study suggests that communicating the potential environmental benefits of seafood farming expansion in this nation has the potential to shift public perceptions.
A significant fraction of survey respondents reported no or low familiarity with seafood farming: 49 percent had “never heard” of or “knew little about” marine aquaculture, and 61 percent of participants had “never heard” of or “knew little about” seaweed farming.
“The likelihood that respondents held a positive opinion of the sector in question increased with higher baseline levels of familiarity.”
Data also revealed that seafood farming received more favorable responses from surveyed individuals after watching a video series produced by the Aquarium of Pacific, entitled “Ocean to Table: Stories of Food, Farming, and Conservation”. This video series highlights responsible marine aquaculture or ocean farming in the US.
The video program brings together seafood farmers, scientists, and chefs from around the country to share their stories. Each video showcases a different ocean farm and different types of seafood. Over half of the respondents who began with a negative opinion of seafood farming, shifted to a favorable opinion after watching one of these videos.
This study also asked respondents about what sources they most trusted when it came to aquaculture. The highest ranked trusted sources were scientists, seafood farmers, and aquariums/museums.
Conserving and building nature
The nonprofit Aquarium of the Pacific is a community gathering place where diverse cultures and the arts are celebrated and where important challenges facing the planet are explored.
The Aquarium is dedicated to conserving and building nature and nature’s services by building the interactions between and among peoples. Home to more than 12,000 animals, Aquarium exhibits include Babies!, Coral Reefs: Nature’s Underwater Cities, Pacific Visions, and Shark Lagoon.
The Ocean to Table video series is also available for free and can be accessed on the Aquarium’s website at aquariumofpacific.org/seafoodfuture/ocean_to_table/Ocean_to_table_watch.