Sustainable aquaculture – also known as seafood farming – is an ancient technique that is now rapidly expanding across the world. According to NOAA’s Office of Aquaculture, 70-85 percent of seafood consumed in the U.S. is imported (and half of that is from overseas farming), leading to a seafood deficit of over $17 billion per year. Increasing domestic aquaculture could help the U.S. avoid larger foreign imports of seafood, which is not produced with the environmental and health standards attributable to U.S. practices. Importantly, aquaculture also supports commercial and recreational fisheries through wild hatchery and restorative aquaculture programs. 

USC Sea Grant will continue to leverage funded research and outreach programs to ensure that coastal and open ocean shellfish and seaweed aquaculture successfully achieve the triple bottom line for sustainability (i.e., environmental, social, economic). Developing safe, environmentally sustainable, and socially responsible aquaculture products requires the development of appropriate technologies and practices, an educated, diverse workforce that can support this burgeoning industry, and informed public support for industry expansion. Greater public education and outreach are needed to inform the public about different types of aquaculture, best practices, and the value of eating safe, sustainable seafood. 

Recent Research

  • Abstract: Seafood farming is heralded for its economic opportunities and its potential to reduce the greenhouse gas emissions associated with food production. Yet the persistent lack of awareness among the US public about these potential benefits of seafood farming is often cited as a barrier to social acceptance and industry growth. We employed two exploratory online surveys of residents of western and northeastern US coastal states and a unique message-testing approach to explore: (1) how existing opinions about seafood farming vary across sociodemographic attributes, geography, and prior familiarity with aquaculture; (2) the malleability of opinions about seafood farming; and (3) what benefits of marine aquaculture broadly and of seaweed farming specifically were viewed as the strongest reasons to support industry expansion, and what messengers are most trusted to share that information. We found that baseline attitudes about seafood farming strongly correlate with prior familiarity and that opinions about both marine aquaculture and seaweed farming were highly malleable, at least in the short term. If confirmed by further studies, our results suggest that messages emphasizing benefits in terms of environmental sustainability, as opposed to economic benefits or social benefits, may be an important tool to better engage residents of western and northeastern US coastal states with seafood farming expansion.

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  • Details: USC Sea Grant-Funded Research Project (2016-2018)

    Principal Investigators:

    • Linda Duguay, Ph.D., (former) Director, USC Sea Grant 
    • Jerry Schubel, Ph.D. (former) President, Long Beach Aquarium of the Pacific
    • Kim Thompson, (former) Program Manager, Long Beach Aquarium of the Pacific 
    • Dr. James Morris, Ph.D., Ecologist, National Centers for Coastal Ocean Science, NOAA

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Community Engagement