||Declining wild fish populations and an upward demand for seafood contribute to a growing
interest in marine aquaculture as a source of fresh, local seafood. This study assessed
the values and perceptions associated with the marine shellfish aquaculture industry
in coastal North Carolina and perceived impacts of its changes in key areas of historical
conflict. It also examines newly emerging concerns associated with the shellfish mariculture
industry that have not been documented since a recent uptick in lease applications.
Using stakeholder interviews and analysis of relevant news media sources, this study
found that key values associated with the shellfish mariculture industry include clean
water, tradition/heritage, preference for locally sourced seafood, state pride, job
stability, independence, and product quality. Stakeholders and news media sources
emphasized clean water as the highest environmental priority and voiced a need for
better water quality management. However, impact perceptions varied in that some viewed
and discussed greater impacts to the producer, such as price drops and market flooding,
while others focused primarily on impacts to consumers, such as health and product
quality. The findings also show that discussions about shellfish mariculture vary
in their level of ability to differentiate between the types, methods, technologies,
and species grown, or in their ability to properly communicate this differentiation.
Stakeholders and news media cited higher production yields and enhanced water quality
as overall benefits from shellfish mariculture, but different methods of growth, such
as off-bottom vs. on-bottom, will likely have different benefits and adverse impacts.
Thus, further research should incorporate more detailed analyses of public perceptions
through quantitative surveys, and policy makers should compare the economic, social,
and environmental impacts of different types of mariculture methods to determine the
appropriate percentage of leases for each that maximizes both ecosystem services and