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HAVBRUK2-Stort program for havbruksforskning

Sustainable aquaculture - regulation and reputation

Awarded: NOK 5.5 mill.

The main objective of STARR is to obtain more knowledge about the aquaculture industry's reputation, and how social acceptability of aquaculture industry affects and is affected by the current regulatory framework. We have conducted a thorough survey of the discourse on aquaculture in Norwegian media. All articles about Norwegian aquaculture in 9 Norwegian newspapers in the years 2012, 2013 and 2014 have been read and analyzed. 1304 article that reviews aquaculture and salmon farming were categorized on 15 variables that included topics, sources and the impact (positive, neutral or negative) the article gave. Briefly, the results show that the dominant themes were the environment, industry and politics. Unlike findings from other countries, we find that a topic such as salmon and health effects are seldom discussed in Norwegian newspapers. We can assume that how the selected newspapers choose topics and how these are framed, has an effect on how the reader and the general public perceives salmon farming. Set across different themes we find essentially a balanced focus, but negative articles are often of a more sensationalist style. We find that especially for the environment it is mainly a negative framing, and that there is a strong focus on environmental risk. We can assume that this gives less focus on other topics, and the development of new solutions and technologies, as well as the discussion on improvement opportunities. We have also studied the debate contributions in the selected newspapers - to better understand the character of the public debate on salmon aquaculture. What we find is that there are two opposing alliances who actively use the newspapers' debate sites to promote their views. These two alliances create two very different pictures of salmon farming in their respective extremes. One presents a picture of an industry that produces food for a growing world population where the problems are described as challenges and which emphasizes the innovation capability of the industry. The second describes a terrifying picture of an industry that does not take problems seriously, and where speculation about corruption between business and politicians are expressed. We also find debate contributions by researchers and public administrators seeking to nuance the debate, but these are not as prominent. The results of this work have been communicated in several newspaper articles, as well as at different lectures, and so far, in two papers soon to be published in Marine Policy. In STARR we also looked at how the industry and public administration are influenced by the media's presentation of salmon farming, which has so far resulted in on-going work on three themes. The first is the focus on recent regulations, such as green concessions and increased focus on lice, and how government and public administration attempts to discipline the industry in a more sustainable direction. The second is how sustainability has become a key term in the debate on Norwegian salmon farming, and in interviews we have gone further into how the industry adapts to the expectations of sustainable production. Global certification schemes (eg. ASC) has become an important method for the industry to document and develop its operations, and our on-going work shows that there are great expectations that certification will both improve production, but also the public reputation. The third theme is how the media's representation of lice as the main problem in Norwegian salmon farming affects the regulation of the industry. Counting lice have today become the most important management object for regulating the industry. Meanwhile, both researchers and public administrators state in our interviews that this may make other problems less visible, and even worsened.

The salmon aquaculture industry has been an object of public debate. While the farmed product has a good reputation, the industry faces many challenges in this respect. Especially concerning sustainability issues. STARR will investigate in what manners pu blic discourse, stakeholders and interaction between regulators and industry affect political decisions and regulations, which in turn influence the framework conditions of fish farming in Norway The proposed project is designed to address these issues fr om different angles. In the first three work packages, the media discourse, stakeholders and their engagement on public arenas, as well as regulators' interactional patterns with the industry will be mapped and analyzed to understand the pathways by which the public discourse influences governmental regulations. An important topic in the public perception of the industry are issues of sustainability. STARR will therefore specifically study how such topics is perceived as important by media and stakehold ers and how this is reflected in the interaction between regulators and industry. A possible response from the industry on sustainability issues is to enhance accountability and transparency. Due to its specific national focus, STARR is not an internati onal comparative project, but will include international perspectives through comparative work with members of the advisory board, and methodological parallels to international studies, thus ensuring relevance of the resultant publications internationally . Along the path, the project will produce and make available results that are highly relevant for the industry, regulators and policy makers, as well as providing a basis for further research based on the individual work packag

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HAVBRUK2-Stort program for havbruksforskning