Aquaculture has been recognised as a potential food industry to contribute to multiple United Nations Sustainable Development Goals; its growth and development depend on understanding societal perceptions in a broader context. However, to date, no comprehensive reviews have been conducted to understand whether scientific publications and newspaper outlets portray societal perceptions of aquaculture – in terms of sustainability – in positive, negative, or neutral terms. To fill this gap, this study synthesises articles on societal perceptions of aquaculture to understand whether scientific and newspaper articles mention multiple sustainable dimensions before portraying aquaculture as positive, negative, or neutral.
Methods and materials
Web of Science, Scopus, and Google Scholar were consulted to search research articles published from 1 January 2015 to 15 January 2023 with search terms : aquaculture , farmed fish , aquafarming , mariculture , polyculture , perception , belief , attitude , image, and opinion. Scientific articles following inclusion criteria were thematically clustered employing the visualisation of similarities (VOS) software . Further, 100 newspaper articles (n = 100) were selected from each of the following countries: UK, Denmark, France, Spain, Turkey and China; 79 were selected from Poland, while articles from Hungary (n = 29) and India (n = 70) were also selected for media content analysis.
A scoping review identified 151 studies for inclusion in our five identified clusters of scientific publications: (1) social acceptability, (2) growth and development, (3) media coverage, (4) sustainable aquaculture, and (5) consumer perception. Further, with triangulation , t he findings from this study suggest that scientific and newspaper articles mention one or more aspects of aquacultural sustainability in an abstract form to base their perception as positive, negative, or neutral. Key stakeholder groups include the fish farming industry (fish farmers, aquaculture associations or groups), civil society groups (environmental NGOs, activists, community groups, media), governmental officials, scientists, and business leaders (retailers/wholesalers, technology industry, other industries such as fisheries, tourism), and the public (indigenous groups, residents, and consumers). The stakeholder groups perceive aquaculture differently, both between them and depending on the circumstances and context; their perception ranged from positive to negative. Multiple factors influence their perceptions, including aquaculture’s impact on multiple sustainability dimensions, knowledge, transparency, personal interests, types, and location of aquaculture practises, regulations, experience, food-related and dietary lifestyles, as well as sociodemographic characteristics such as age, gender, education, household size, occupation, and income.
We recommend that aquaculture practitioners focus on context-specific multifaceted strategies – prioritising transparency, communication, and accountability – and provide essential knowledge to ensure that societal perceptions of aquaculture are based on accurate, empirical information.