USA.- Sea Grant recently announced $16 million in federal funding awards to support 42 research projects and collaborative programs aimed at advancing sustainable aquaculture in the United States. The Center for Tropical and Subtropical Aquaculture is excited to announce that we are the recipients of one of this year’s awards!
The newly funded projects will focus on three areas of need identified by Sea Grant: Advanced Aquaculture Collaborative Programs, Exploring New Aquaculture Opportunities, and Social, Economic, and Behavioral Research Needs in Aquaculture. The CTSA project falls in the latter category as one of sixteen projects that will address critical gaps in social, behavioral, and economic knowledge as it relates to U.S. aquaculture and the communities impacted and served by it.
Following up on CTSA’s previous education activities, our Sea Grant project “Assessing public perceptions of aquaculture and the broader impacts of K-12 aquaculture education” will investigate the correlations between aquaculture education and public perceptions of seafood. CTSA’s Executive Director Cheng-Sheng Lee is coordinating the work along with Information Specialist Meredith Brooks—who will work together with experts to create new education materials—and Co-PI Dr. Catherine Chan, who will conduct the assessment with students and community members.
The motives behind our project are not foreign to aquaculture industry stakeholders. U.S. is the second largest importer of seafood products in the world—including those from aquaculture—yet our country only grows 5% of the seafood we consume. It is safe to say that aquaculture is not well understood by the general public, and as a result we are missing out on opportunities to improve our food security, economy, and even environment. It is important to overcome the communication obstacles and, as FAO recommends, actively shape the debate on aquaculture because “a lack of information leaves room for speculation.” This is especially true if we are going to meet the growing national and global demands for seafood. Furthermore, the FAO recommends investing in education to provide more fact-based information to consumers to address the various perceptions that impact the growth of the aquaculture industry.
A primary goal of this project is to increase seafood consumption via education. One key assumption for this approach is that students can influence the perception of the whole family; thus, it is important to understand what information students are currently using to convey consumption preferences to their parents (with regards to ‘origin’ of fish, for our purposes). In addition, consumers are becoming more health and safety conscious on how their food is grown and where it comes from. Hence, our team will assess public (including students and students’ family) perceptions of aquaculture and aquaculture products before and after implementing an aquaculture education program. Any assessment is likely to assert that education and outreach are important to filling the gaps in consumer acceptance of aquaculture.
“With our 2019 investments, we are building on investments by Sea Grant and NOAA over the last few years to fill critical gaps in information and strengthen connectivity of science to industry,” said Jonathan Pennock, Director of the National Sea Grant College Program. “These investments will help advance U.S. aquaculture in sustainable, thoughtful ways using the best science and talent across the country.”
CTSA also congratulates our colleagues at Hawai’i Sea Grant on the successful submission of multiple projects, including “Establishing a Hawai’i-Pacific Aquaculture Consortium: A Revitalization and Expansion of the Aquaculture Development Program,” which was awarded nearly $1.2 million under the Collaborative Program category. The aim of this project is to revitalize, solidify, and expand an aquaculture development program through the establishment of an aquaculture-focused, collaborative program that engages in robust and diverse geographic and sectoral inclusivity across Hawai’i and the Pacific region.
Dr. Darren Lerner, Hawai?i Sea Grant director and principle investigator, said “With renewed interest here in Hawai?i as demonstrated by Governor Ige’s signing of Act 063, this funding will assist in creating a hub which fully integrates research, extension, and education services directed towards supporting the continued development and enhancement of indigenous aquaculture practices and the aquaculture industry in Hawai?i and the Pacific.”
Another newly awarded Hawai’i Sea Grant project will fund work that is a continuation of over a decade of CTSA support to establish bivalve farming in Hawai’i. The project “Culture of Native Bivalve Species to Expand Mariculture Opportunities and Improve Coastal Environments,” led by Hawaii Sea Grant and Dr. Maria Haws of UH Hilo, will develop hatchery and nursery methods for selected bivalve species from the Pinnidae family for aquaculture and environmental purposes in Hawai`i and the U.S. Affiliated Pacific Islands (USAPI).
Haws noted “These new awards demonstrate how important it was to have formed CSACR (Center for Sustainable Aquaculture and Coastal Resources) five years ago and to serve the entire Pacific region. The leading aquaculture specialists in the UH System now have an unprecedented opportunity to come together to strengthen aquaculture education and extension throughout the region, just as demand from students and producers is reaching an all-time high.”
Two additional projects were awarded in our Western Pacific region. The project “Exploring the Potential for Sustainable Capture-Based Aquaculture of Spiny Lobster (Panulirus spp.) in Pohnpei, Federated States of Micronesia” will test the efficacy of sustainable wild capture of spiny lobster peuruli and juveniles as a basis for forming an aquaculture industry. The project “An Assessment of Mariculture Feasibility in American Samoa” seeks to provide information on a myriad social, economic, and geographical questions that surround the development of mariculture in American Samoa.