Survey: Australians okay with intensive salmon farming, just make it green

A survey meant to gauge the attitudes of Australians toward commercial fish farming showed they generally are interested in finding an environmentally responsible and ethical way of farming fish rather than abolishing the industry altogether.

About 19,200 participants were asked to consider trade-offs in the production of fish at a commercial level in the context of environmental and ethical questions.

Roughly 42 percent said they would be okay with farming fish like salmon intensively, as long as it happened in a closed system or on land, rather than in open ocean or inshore coastal areas. (It must be noted, though, that the way polling questions are asked can influence people’s answers.)

Lead researcher Dr Kieren Moffat said the responses show there is a large proportion of people who support the trade-off.

Thirty-nine percent of the respondents were neutral about it, indicating that there are many who feel too uninformed on these issues to form a strong opinion either way. This signals an opportunity for the aquaculture and fisheries sectors to engage with those people, Moffat suggested.

Only 20 percent of people disagreed with intensive fish farming.

In response to the survey statement: “We should eat less fish rather than farm them intensively in any farm”, the younger age group (18- to 24-year-olds) had the strongest level of agreement.

Moffat says this is most likely more about understanding how fishery and aquaculture industries operate, rather than concerns with industry practices, thus underscoring the opportunity to educate the community.

Australians’ attitude toward aquaculture and fisheries over a three-year period. Graphic: FRDC

The annual survey, which marked its third year in 2021, showed that over 80 percent of Australians believe aquaculture and fisheries play an important role in the society and the percentage is increasing steadily (see table).

The national survey is commissioned by the Fisheries Research and Development Corporation (FRDC), a partnership between the Australian Government and fisheries and aquaculture.


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