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British men more negative to fish farming than those in EU

Senior researcher Themis Altintzoglou and head of research Pirjo Honkanen, from Nofima, have looked at what EU and UK citizens know about the production of fish they find in fresh food and freezer counters in stores. Photo: Rune Stoltz Bertinussen.
Senior researcher Themis Altintzoglou and head of research Pirjo Honkanen, from Nofima, have looked at what EU and UK citizens know about the production of fish they find in fresh food and freezer counters in stores. Photo: Rune Stoltz Bertinussen.

Young British men are most negative about farmed fish, and they were also among those who know the least about aquaculture, a survey among residents of the United Kingdom, Italy, Spain, France and Germany has revealed.

“Young people between the ages of 18 and 34 eat the least fish and have the most negative perceptions about aquaculture. It is therefore most interesting for us to reach this particular target group with more information,” said Pirjo Honkanen, research manager at Norwegian aquaculture research institute Nofima.

Last year, 2,500 randomly selected people from the five countries responded to an online survey. Next autumn, another 500 randomly selected people from each of the five countries will be asked again to see if information on social media has an effect on the level of knowledge.

Recognising sustainability

“Sustainability is in focus for the entire project. Producers are investing to make seafood production more sustainable, and so the question is whether consumers will accept this and recognise it. It will be very interesting to check if the knowledge, attention and acceptance for aquaculture increases during this project,” said Honkanen.

The consumer study is part of the FutureEUAqua project where research is done on everything from genetics, feed development, process development and packaging, to consumer studies. FutureEUAqua is funded by the EU’s research program Horizon 2020 and has a number of research partners from both business and the research environment in Europe.

A sub-goal of the project is to increase knowledge about how seafood production takes place, and especially fish farming. The results from the consumer study will therefore build up during an information campaign.

“We asked the respondents to rank where they would like such messages and in what form. Based on the answers we received, we will concentrate the communication around social media and especially on Instagram and Twitter,” said senior researcher Themis Altintzoglou.

Four methods

Information that the project will promote include the four methods of farming:

  • Conventional farming, which accounts for the vast majority of production.
  • Organic farming, where there are strict rules for the number of fish in the cages and feed and medicine use.
  • RAS - recirculating aquaculture systems - which are land facilities that are completely closed and the emissions are cleaned.
  • IMTA - Integrated MultiTrophic Aquaculture - facilities where there are several species that utilise each other’s waste products. For example, mussels, seaweed and kelp in addition to salmon. In theory, this is a natural way of producing fish, but there are few such facilities.

During the year, the project will develop campaigns in the form of short films. These will be published on social media in the relevant countries and will lead the public to an information page on the web.

“Our goal is to open up about the topic and inform, not to sell. On the website we will present easy-to-read and understandable information based on research from the project. In addition, they also get access to the more detailed reports. We hope to inspire the consumer to seek more knowledge on the subject,” said Themis.