Survey Measures Consumer Preferences for Wild-Caught and Farm-Raised Seafood

The U.S. imports 84% of its seafood.  As the chart shows, most imports (by volume) are from Asia. 
            (Source: NOAA Fisheries Service "FishWatch" website).
The U.S. imports 84% of its seafood. As the chart shows, most imports are from Asia (2009 data, by volume). (Source: NOAA Fisheries Service "FishWatch" website).

PIFSC researchers Kelly Davidson and Minling Pan have launched a study of consumer preferences for wild-caught vs. farm-raised seafood. The research, a collaboration between PIFSC and the University of Kentucky, was initiated in response to NOAA's newly established National Marine Aquaculture Initiative.

Currently, the U.S. ranks third in seafood consumption behind China and Japan, and 84% of seafood sold in the U.S. is imported from foreign sources. Although aquaculture provides more than half of all seafood consumed worldwide, the domestic aquaculture industry produces only about 5% of seafood consumed in the U.S.

The joint study featured a survey, fielded in Hawaii and Kentucky, to investigate U.S. consumer perceptions and preferences. Consumers were queried about their awareness of and knowledge of production methods (farm-raised vs. wild-caught seafood), seafood labeling, and environmental issues. The survey also addressed food safety and nutrition, cultural traditions, consumption patterns, and taste and product form preferences.

In addition, the researchers applied a so-called "conjoint analysis" across four different fish species (tuna, salmon, tilapia and moi) to determine species-specific attributes that affect consumers’ willingness to pay and their purchasing decisions. Results will be compared between the two states to measure the effects of cultural and geographical differences in consumer preferences for the selected species.

Davidson, a fisheries economics specialist employed by the University of Hawaii Joint Institute for Marine and Atmospheric Research, took the lead on the in-person consumer survey in Hawaii. Most surveys were conducted in Times Supermarket locations and selected farmers markets in Honolulu. From the survey's start in mid-June 2010 through August 13, 2010, the research team surveyed 376 consumers. The project's goal is to complete 400 in-person and 200 internet surveys. After analysis of survey data is completed, the results will be published.

Results of research will help policymakers and seafood producers in both industry sectors (aquaculture farms and wild stock fisheries) address important issues related to seafood markets and production.