Assessing the potential of ecolabels to improve social acceptance within Nova Scotia’s finfish aquaculture industry: A stakeholder approach [graduate project].
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While aquaculture has grown exponentially in recent years and has been promoted for its economic benefits and potential to contribute to improved food security, conflicts over public health, land use, and environmental concerns have accompanied its rapid growth. Ecolabelling is widely recognized as a market-based tool for improved sustainability in fisheries and aquaculture, but the ability of ecolabels to address diverse public concerns is not well understood. This research used a stakeholder approach to identify challenges and opportunities for ecolabelling, and discuss its potential to influence social acceptance within a controversial finfish aquaculture industry. This study used mixed-methods (Q-methodology, surveys, and interviews) to explore the perceptions of stakeholders towards ecolabelling finfish aquaculture in Nova Scotia, Canada. Results show that aquaculture producers are highly supportive of ecolabelling, but that other stakeholders have mixed opinions on their benefits, challenges and potential uptake. An analysis of current production methods found that ecolabels could have industry-wide adoption. This study argues that ecolabelling may offer economic benefits, reduce environmental concerns, and represent a shared vision between stakeholders, but is not a panacea for social acceptance. A media analysis found several prominent concerns about aquaculture. The connectedness of diverse environmental, socio-economic, and management concerns challenges the ability of ecolabels to influence social acceptance, since ecolabels only address environmental concerns. Furthermore, the variability between schemes must be acknowledged and better understood to fully assess their potential within Nova Scotia’s aquaculture industry. This study provides recommendations to aquaculture producers, governments, NGOs, and other stakeholders interested in pursuing aquaculture ecolabelling.