Shaping Attitudes Toward Aquaculture In The United States
Aquaculture is a growing industry around the world, but many people know very little about it. As a result, they don’t have strong opinions about it.
To study public perceptions of aquaculture and people’s attitudes toward this sector’s growth, the authors of this study ran two online surveys in nine U.S. coastal states. Both surveys explored how video and written messages about the benefits of aquaculture affected the participants’ opinions. One of the surveys was about aquaculture in general, while the other was specifically about seaweed farming. It’s important to note that the authors are not from an advocacy background (in other words, they were interested in promoting aquaculture).
The researchers found that participants who knew more about aquaculture had more positive viewpoints of it. Older people knew less about aquaculture, while people with graduate degrees knew more. Otherwise, there weren’t significant demographic differences.
The researchers showed participants videos about how aquaculture is sustainable. 57% of participants who had a less-than-favorable opinion of aquaculture starting out had a positive opinion after watching a video. When asked to rate written messages by how persuasive they are, participants rated environment-related messages (e.g., “aquaculture is a sustainable alternative to wild fisheries”) as most persuasive. They rated economic messages (e.g., “aquaculture will help reduce the U.S.’s trade deficit”) as least persuasive.
Participants saw scientists as the most trustworthy source of information about seaweed farming, followed by aquatic farmers, aquariums and museums, and fishermen. Participants saw non-governmental organizations as the least trustworthy source of information, but also had a low level of trust in governments, grocers, and professional chefs.
While the authors of this paper are pro-aquaculture, the information is relevant for aquatic animal advocates. The average person, even in a coastal region, knows very little about aquaculture. Even watching a single video is enough to get them to change their opinion. Animal advocates therefore have an opportunity to persuade the public with strategic campaigns. Scientists, aquariums, and museums are seen as credible sources, so allies in these sectors can inform the public about the harms of aquaculture. Finally, messages about the environmental problems of commercial fishing may be the most persuasive to use in advocacy campaigns.