Effectively Communicating with Subsistence Fish Consumers to Reduce Exposure to Contaminants


Economic factors and cultural values influence individual choices to catch local fish as an important supplement to their diet. This practice is commonly referred to as subsistence fishing. We believe the term “fishing for food” is more appropriate, given the mosaic of values and motivations that underlie the practice. While fishing for food is an affordable and accessible way to acquire a nutritional food source, chemical contaminants from the environment can build up in certain species of fish. Consumption of fish that contain chemical contaminants may harm human health. Fishing for food creates environmental justice concerns because low income and minority communities generally depend on wild caught fish in different ways and to a greater extent than society as a whole and are therefore likely to be disproportionately exposed to the harmful contaminants. The practice of fishing for food is informal, and fishers have a wealth of specialized local knowledge, which they frequently share amongst themselves. The informality of the practice and centrality of local, specialized knowledge means that little information is available on people who fish for food. Our project addresses this data gap in eastern North Carolina through a combination of intercept surveys, key actor interviews, and participant observations that allow us to tap the local knowledge and community experiences necessary for deepening our understanding of fishing for food. This methodology allows us to examine the behaviors, motivations, and values of people fishing for food along the lower Cape Fear River in North Carolina, a waterway that is heavily impaired by pollution. Our findings provide a glimpse into the behaviors, motivations, and values of those fishing for food in this area that will be used to inform an ongoing, local community-based social marketing campaign. This campaign endeavors to provide community relevant information and actionable alternatives that help individuals who fish for food avoid exposure to chemical contaminants. More generally our research demonstrates how community-based research approaches can be used to inform the development of locally relevant public health initiatives that address the unique behaviors, values, and contexts of impacted communities.





Dietz, Martin, and Steven Yang (2020). Effectively Communicating with Subsistence Fish Consumers to Reduce Exposure to Contaminants. Master's project, Duke University. Retrieved from https://hdl.handle.net/10161/20557.

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