There has been a recent movement towards more sustainable seafood production, as many organizations now evaluate and certify fisheries that are harvested in a responsible and environmentally friendly manner, allowing for habitat and stock preservation. Public aquariums have been influential in marine science education for decades, promoting conservation of the marine environment through their exhibits, shows, and community events. Although there is an increasing demand for sustainable seafood information and education, many aquariums have yet to address the issue of sustainable seafood in a thorough manner. The opportunity exists for aquariums to become leaders in the sustainable seafood movement because of their extensive involvement with the public as well as other conservation-minded organizations. This paper addresses the public perceptions and behaviors regarding sustainable seafood, focusing on visitors to Southern California public aquariums, and analyzes what relationships exist between aquarium visits and visitors’ perceptions and behaviors as they relate to sustainable seafood. While the majority of individuals surveyed thought that overfishing was occurring to some extent, many did not know much about the subject of sustainable seafood and expressed interest in finding out more. There is evidence that aquariums can be influential in educating the public on sustainable seafood, but steps should be taken to increase the available information so that the public can be better educated and as a result make more sustainable seafood purchases. The results of this study showed that most aquarium visitors are interested in finding out ways to make more sustainable seafood purchases. There was a correlation between how often individuals visit aquariums and their perception of current fish populations in the United States, with more frequent aquarium visitors typically believing that most stocks are being overfished. A relationship was also observed between the frequency of aquarium visits and the likelihood of a visitor being aware of sustainable seafood cards or brochures like those produced by Seafood Watch and FishWatch. In addition, public aquariums were found to have a positive influence on visitor perception of aquaculture, indicating that aquariums have been successful in educating visitors and conveying information in a manner that is easily understood by a wide variety of ages and educational backgrounds. Overall, aquariums were shown to be influential in regards to visitor perceptions and behaviors, but an increased focus on the subject of responsibly sourced seafood could help aquariums realize their potential in the sustainable seafood movement.
McDermott, Brendan P., "The role of public aquariums in sustainable seafood: How aquariums influence visitor perception and behavior." (2013). Internship Reports (Restricted). 179.
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