Issues such as food safety, quality, health, animal welfare and the environment have become more important for seafood consumers and the general public in recent years, particularly in relation to aquaculture. Moving from monoculture to integrated multi-trophic aquaculture (IMTA), may remedy some of the concerns held by the public relating to these issues. Early studies from North America have found that consumers, and indeed the public in general, are supportive of more sustainable aquaculture production systems such as IMTA. The study described here adds to our understanding of the general public's perceptions of aquaculture in general and IMTA in particular, providing a European perspective. Furthermore, the study identifies factors which should be considered if advancing public recognition of IMTA. 2520 web-based survey questionnaires were compiled from across five countries (Ireland, Israel, Italy, Norway and the UK), aimed at investigating public understanding of aquaculture benefits and impacts, knowledge of IMTA, and also collecting demographic information. The data collected were analysed using descriptive statistics and logistic regression methods. This study determined that both positive and negative perceptions of aquaculture are held by the European general public and that they are influenced by a variety of geographic and demographic traits. The study also identified a lack of awareness of IMTA along with positive perceptions of the concept of integrated aquaculture, although the latter results should be treated with some caution. Based on the results, we conclude that there is clear scope to advance public awareness of the role of IMTA and this will be necessary to gain mainstream acceptance of this aquaculture practice.
The authors would like to thank those who were interviewed for this research. The research leading to these results was undertaken as part of the IDREEM project (Increasing Industrial Resource Efficiency in European Mariculture, www.idreem.eu) and has received funding from the European Union’s Seventh Framework Programme (FP7/2007-2013) under grant agreement no. 308571. The funding source played no role in the research.
- Environmental sustainability
- Integrated multi trophic aquaculture
- Public perceptions