Values and Perceptions of Shellfish Mariculture in Coastal North Carolina

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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 production.





Roberts, Whitney (2018). Values and Perceptions of Shellfish Mariculture in Coastal North Carolina. Master's project, Duke University. Retrieved from

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