W4004: Marketing, Trade, and Management of Aquaculture and Fishery Resources

(Multistate Research Project)

Status: Active

W4004: Marketing, Trade, and Management of Aquaculture and Fishery Resources

Duration: 10/01/2021 to 09/30/2026

Administrative Advisor(s):


NIFA Reps:


Statement of Issues and Justification

Aquaculture and capture fisheries provide a significant source of protein and economic activity for people in the United States and other countries. U.S. commercial fisheries landings and value in 2017 were 9.9 billion pounds and $5.4 billion, up by 3.6% and 2.1 % from 2016, respectively (National Marine Fisheries Service 2018a). Aquaculture total production (freshwater and marine combined) in 2016 was valued at $1.5 billion with landings of 633 million pounds, maintaining a 1% annual increase in production volume since 2010 (National Marine Fisheries Service 2017, 2018a). The most valuable marine aquaculture item is oysters, followed by clams, salmon, shrimp, and mussels. Aquaculture represents 21% of the U.S. seafood production by value and is expected to grow in the coming years as the consumers’ demand for seafood continues to increase (National Marine Fisheries Service 2018a).

At the same time, the U.S. is the world’s largest importer of seafood by value, with anywhere from 65% to 90% of total domestic consumption originating outside the country (Gephart et al., 2019). Irrespective of the exact percentage, there is no doubt that the U.S. seafood market is dominated by imports. This situation has emerged because domestic seafood production – both wild-caught and aquaculture – have been unable to meet the increasing aggregate demand and per capita consumption of seafood (Shamshak et al., 2019). The U.S. wild-caught fishery stocks are essentially fully utilized and well-managed to avoid overfishing, which has resulted in stable annual production of about 5 million metric tons (mt) since the late 1980s (Garlock et al., 2020a). As late as 1975, the U.S. was the world’s third-largest aquaculture producer but increases in domestic production have been much smaller than global trends (FAO 2018) and peaked at just over 600,000 mt in 2004. Global aquaculture production has expanded rapidly since then, while U.S. aquaculture production declined to just over 400,000 mt in 2017 (Garlock et al., 2020a). This has created a situation where most of the increases in U.S. seafood demand since the 1980s have been met through imports, which have almost tripled to just under 3 million mt product weight in 2017. High volume segments of the U.S. seafood market are very competitive, characterized by keen price competition between domestic and foreign producers, and low-cost foreign producers have captured significant market share (Anderson et al., 2018).

A shift in the tide that could benefit domestic producers may, however, be on the horizon. Recent studies have shown that consumer demand exists for seafood that possesses a specific quality, production process, and origin attributes (Garlock et al., 2020b). There is also evidence that niche-oriented clusters with local suppliers could improve competitiveness in the domestic aquaculture industry in other countries (Asche, 2008), and this is a type of industry structure that can create new opportunities for the U.S. aquaculture sector. In Rhode Island, for example, oyster aquaculture is one of the fastest-growing industries with an estimated net value of over $6 million (RI Coastal Resources Management Council 2019), and in Florida, clam aquaculture has been highly successful during the last two decades (Lallo, 2016). Local producers of Pacific white shrimp in Hawaii compete successfully against foreign imports of the same species (Hawaii Department of Agriculture, 2016), and locally farmed shrimp, tilapia, and milkfish are in high demand in Guam (Guam Economic Development Authority, 2019). It is also worthwhile to note that there is increasing recognition for other purposes that local aquaculture may serve. For example, in Hawaii, traditional fishponds have played a role in food security for generations but are also culturally significant sites that allow for the continuation of cultural practices. A streamlined permitting process was recently developed to encourage fishpond practitioners (Watson et al. 2016). 

In the short term, however, the heavy dependency of the U.S. seafood industry on imports is expected to remain. This produces both a degree of food security risk as well as a significant trade deficit. Disruptions to the global supply chain are no longer hypothetical as we have seen during the on-going COVID19 crisis. Domestic fisheries would be unable to fill the demand-supply gap in case of any significant supply chain disruption, and the risk of shortages could become higher if wild fisheries are negatively affected by other disruptions such as climate change. These risk scenarios were mostly hypothetical until recently, but this year has seen reduced fishing due to both collapsed demand and safety concerns for fishermen and their crews. Global and domestic supply chains were disrupted, causing much chaos during early periods of the pandemic, and food security risk became acute in regions such as Hawaii and Guam which are represented by our consortium partners. This situation was made worse by the absence of a large and diverse domestic aquaculture industry.

The COVID19 pandemic incident also brought to light a lack of diversity in many parts of the U.S. aquaculture industry. Focusing on high-value species is both desirable and preferable from a purely business and economic efficiency perspective, but this can create challenges when supply chains are disrupted. The RI aquaculture industry’s focus on oysters that serve mainly the tourism and hospitality industries is one such example. The industry has recently put a lot of effort into promoting the consumption of farmed oysters at home (Kelly 2020), but the local market is small compared to the scale of oyster production. This situation can create imbalances in local seafood markets if supply chain disruptions create an over-supply of local species and a concurrent shortage of imported seafood. It also highlights the importance of investing in diverse local aquaculture production that is resilient to external shocks.

Another important and interesting aspect of aquaculture is that it interacts with capture fisheries in many ways. One example is the provision of hatchery-raised fish and shellfish that are released into the wild to enhance or rebuild wild stock populations, thereby providing support for both commercial and recreational fisheries. The state of wild fish stocks and associated fishery regulations could influence the demand for farm-raised fish and shellfish. It could also affect technological innovations, such as the recent introduction of genetically modified (GM) Atlantic salmon (Smith et al. 2010). Capture fisheries also interact with aquaculture products in exchange markets, regulatory environments, and economic development activities (e.g., Knapp et al. 2007). The importance of the multifaceted relationship between aquaculture and capture fisheries suggests a need for reliable economic studies of these two critical resources, especially as management, regulatory, and market demands change over time.

This proposal was developed based on the previous multistate project W3004 that ended in 2019 and the discussions by the members of WDC4004 that took place in the past two years. Some components from W3004 were retained while other components are newly introduced, but the focus will remain as the study of the marketing, trade, and management issues found in various aquaculture and fishery resources. New tasks will be undertaken under the three interrelated areas: 1) marketing, niches, and new products; 2) production for dynamic markets; and 3) analyzing the ‘seascape’ of the aquaculture industry in the U.S. Conducting the proposed work within a multistate framework will facilitate the examination of important stakeholder issues by bringing together experts from across the country, thus avoiding duplication of effort in the design and implementation of research studies. In doing so, the project will continue to create and maintain the human capital infrastructure of the previous W3004 project and WDC4004, and provide a scientific resource that can respond to emerging problems in this resource sector.

The remainder of this section briefly describes the issues and justification for each of the main areas of research to be conducted under the project.

 

Marketing, Niches, and New Products

The last three decades witnessed the globalization of trade in seafood products. World exports of fishery products equaled approximately $23 billion in 1986 and had increased to $142.5 billion by 2016 (FAO 2018). Much of the increase in seafood trade was fostered by advances in worldwide aquaculture production, which has been steadily increasing over time while capture fisheries remained stagnant worldwide (FAO 2020). U.S. imports of edible seafood products in 2017 were 5.9 billion pounds valued at $21.5 billion, an increase of 1.6% and 10.4% from 2016 respectively (National Marine Fisheries Service 2018a).

Many of these imports competing directly with the U.S. capture fisheries (e.g., salmon, pollock, and shrimp) and aquaculture (e.g., catfish and crawfish) sectors. In many instances, this competition resulted in declining real dockside prices for the nations domestically produced products and gradual erosion of economic activity in the harvesting and supporting sectors. Many rural U.S. communities that depend on the production of captured and farmed aquatic products are at a crossroads because of this expanded globalization. Eventually, participants in this sector must respond to global competition and adopt new methods and frontier technologies with the goals of sector rejuvenation and economic security in a changing marketplace.

To meet the challenges ahead, these communities and the small to midsize companies that support them must innovate by developing new products favored by end-users, position products in market niches that increase market penetration, and/or communicate with end-users to maximize the perceived value of the product. Thus, information concerning product distribution and flow, end-user preferences and perception, pricing, processing methods and technology, packaging, and institutional and structural arrangements in the supply chain is needed to ensure marketing success and the sustainability of fisheries and aquaculture assets.

 

Production for Dynamic Markets

Rapidly changing prices and business opportunities have led to increasing economic stress and uncertainty concerning the future direction of aquaculture and fisheries production in the U.S. (National Marine Fisheries Service 2018b). If these industries are to survive, research must focus on improving efficiency and competitiveness. Many aquatic species exhibit inter- and intra-annual changes in physiological characteristics which significantly influence consumer and producer welfare. To remain competitive, U.S. aquaculture producers need to continually improve production efficiencies in order to maximize the financial benefits that can be extracted from their managed production operations, all the while doing so in an environmentally and socially responsible manner. For capture fisheries, it is essential to design regulations and management systems that both maximize the market-related economic benefits derived from the resource and reward well-managed fisheries. Research that integrates both temporal and spatial characteristics of aquaculture and capture fisheries production can be an effective way of evaluating policy options and illuminate the important mechanisms operating between fish-based resources and their respective industries and markets.

Another factor influencing production is the way in which sector growth and changing international markets have affected the trade of fish products. Optimized production practices and breakthroughs in biotechnology research have resulted in declining costs of production for most aquaculture species at a time when many traditional commercial fisheries face increasing resource exploitation, overcapitalization, and marketing infrastructure constraints. Given that these trends are expected to continue, an increasingly dynamic aquaculture sector is likely to erode the competitiveness of traditional fishery products, resulting in a need to devise strategies that will help the traditional fisheries sector adjust to the changing market scenarios. Only by carefully managing the quality and quantity of aquaculture and capture fishery production, both from a temporal and spatial perspective, will the U.S. achieve the national and regional objectives of economic efficiency, full utilization, and stock conservation.

 

Analyzing the ‘seascape’ of the aquaculture industry in the U.S.

The U.S. aquaculture industry has been a minor participant in the global blue revolution that has occurred over the past several decades. As mentioned above, the U.S. was the world’s third-largest aquaculture producer as late as 1975, but after its domestic production peaked in 2004 it declined to just over 400,000 mt in 2017 (Garlock et al., 2020a). Overall, domestic marine aquaculture production has increased while total production from other environments has declined. This overall reduction primarily stems from lower catfish production, but certain producers have been able to take advantage of increasing domestic demand in specific seafood market segments. Future opportunities to reverse long-standing negative trends in U.S. aquaculture production will likely depend on successful targeting of market niches where U.S. farmers have a competitive advantage in supplying products with specific attributes, as well as improving the rate of farm expansion, and the stability and endurance of these new enterprises.

While there are signs of industry growth, especially with regard to marine aquaculture, these success stories are often focused on narrowly defined market segments that are vulnerable to market disruptions. What we need is to investigate for enabling conditions, as well as impediments, for opportunities to expand and diversify U.S. aquaculture production. The proposed project would combine national-level analyses on consumers' preferences, trends, and production challenges and opportunities, with a series of in-depth local case studies that investigate the same questions at the local scale and identify specific innovations and local success stories. The national studies will provide critical baseline knowledge, while the local case studies will focus on identifying effective policies, strategies, and knowledge that can be transferred to other regions.

Related, Current and Previous Work

This section briefly describes the accomplishments of the previous W3004 multistate project as they relate to the proposed three objectives.

 

Marketing, Niches and New Products

In Indiana, one study led by Kwamena Quagrainie (Purdue) sought to explore expanded market opportunities in the local food systems for the aquaculture industry to stimulate market-driven production, particularly for small- to medium-scale producers who have traditionally relied on the live ethnic markets (Quagrainie 2017). Another study compared the economics of aquaponics production of fish and vegetables versus hydroponics production of only vegetables. The study compared investment and operating costs that included the production of the vegetables under the organic system of production (Quagrainie et al. 2018).

Another project involved a survey of Connecticut residents’ interest in and demand for Connecticut aquaculture products—specifically, oysters, clams, and seaweed. The survey involved a choice experiment and participants were given various information treatments about the health/nutrition and environmental benefits of (local) aquaculture. The survey launched in November 2017. This was collaborative work with Tessa Getchis and Anoushka Concepcion from Connecticut Sea Grant and Miriah Kelly from UConn Extension. External grants covered parts of the work, including supervision of an MS student.

A project in the U.S. Virgin Islands investigated the impact of lionfish, an invasive species in the U.S. that is adversely affecting reef systems and associated food webs, and implications for commercial and local subsistence fisheries in the Southeast U.S. and U.S. Virgin Islands. This study, led by Sherry Larkin of UF and Tracey Yandle of Emory and funded by the Saltonstall- Kennedy program brought together economists, anthropologists, and political scientists in cooperation with the Experiment Station in the USVI, to address the potential for a market for lionfish from the social science perspective. Consumers and producers were interviewed for both their WTP and WTA values, respectively, for lionfish meat. Results indicated a latent demand structure for lionfish and highlighted the need for further analysis on the potential viability of a commercial fishery in the area (Simnitt et al. 2020). Significant outreach was conducted in order to help develop the market including teaching fishermen how to catch, handle and fillet lionfish and conveying to consumers that lionfish cooks the same as other fish and may taste and handle even better.

Another interesting project looking at the nexus of aquaculture and recreational fishing is examining the market potential of marine baitfish aquaculture for the recreational fishing market. In part funded by a Saltonstall-Kennedy grant and led by Andrew Ropicki, the project evaluated the market potential of cultured baitfish in Texas through a survey of bait stands and analyzing the economic feasibility of pigfish aquaculture based on production research at the University of Texas Marine Science Institute (UTMSI). Based on initial work there is unmet demand and profitable production is possible (Ropicki and Fuiman 2020). The research has focused on baitfish production for the live bait market by current pond-based aquaculture producers as a secondary crop, as baitfish can be raised in cages in red drum and hybrid striped bass ponds with no disruption in primary production. This has the potential to be a high-value niche market for current producers struggling to compete with imports and could decrease pressure on wild stocks. Additionally, Andrew Ropicki has received additional funding from the University of Florida to analyze the economic feasibility of marine baitfish production in Florida and develop a risk analysis tool for current and potential producers.

 

Production Support for Dynamic Markets

One project looked at the U.S. commercial red snapper IFQ program, which was the first catch share management system implemented in the Gulf of Mexico. The program has been successful in meeting its major goals of ending derby-style fishing and reducing overcapacity in the harvest sector, but several concerns regarding the socioeconomic impacts of the program have been raised. To address these concerns, the management agency initiated a fishery management plan amendment to develop potential modifications to the program. This analysis describes the proposed policy changes, identifies the key outcomes, and assesses the impacts on distinct participant types using historic harvest data, quota trading patterns, and existing estimates of industry concentration. There are three implied regulatory objectives, as all proposed modifications would either increase ownership of shares by harvesters, limit consolidation in the harvest sector, or increase harvest flexibility. The corresponding effects on stakeholders could vary quite substantially as each objective and the associated alternative policies would affect the size and composition of multiple markets that collectively affect socioeconomic outcomes. The approach to evaluating existing catch share programs and the associated findings in this project are important for management agencies charged with adhering to federal policies and guidance concerning distributional outcomes (Ropicki, Willard, and Larkin, 2018).

Another project, led by Quinn Weninger (Iowa State), looked at improving the management and thereby the production of commercial multispecies fisheries by addressing the uncertainty in stock assessment, both abundance and species mix. The project introduced an empirical methodology to consistently estimate the structural properties of a multi-species commercial fishing technology in a setting where the researcher does not observe the abundance and species mix of the fish stock. This environment is ubiquitous in commercial fisheries and, as demonstrated in the paper, leads to a biased estimation of a crucial component of effective fisheries management. The new methodology is expected to advance fisheries management practice worldwide, resulting in more informed and effective policies, and increases in economic benefits that derive from marine fisheries. 

 

Analyzing the ‘Seascape’ of the Aquaculture Industry in the U.S.

There is one project from W3004 that conducted a ‘seascape’ analysis, albeit in the context of seafood certifications. It used the evolution of the Theory of Change over the entire supply chain and was completed in 2018. The study outlined four possible next phases of this seascape ranging from race to the bottom (certification standards converging to the least rigorous standard – least preferred outcome) to the emergence of a new entity the project called sustainable seafood aggregator (SSA). This was a collaborative work with Hiro Uchida (URI), Cathy Roheim (U of ID), Simon Bush (Wageningen Univ., The Netherlands), Jim Sanchirico (UC Davis), and Frank Asche (UF). The resulting peer-reviewed article was published as Roheim et al. (2018), and also produced a Ph.D. dissertation, that resulted in two conference presentations and two papers in preparation. The first paper examined and compared the presence of price premiums for sustainable seafood and perceived food safety in the Chinese market using online merchants’ data; this was presented at the NAAFE 2017 conference. The second paper is also on the consumers' demand for sustainable seafood but uses an economic experimental auction method to investigate further into the details of how the demand in the Chinese seafood market is formed and was presented at IIFET 2018.

Objectives

  1. Marketing, Niches, and New Products
    Comments: Improve the development of seafood markets by focusing on analyses of new marketing themes, market niches, and alternative seafood products.
  2. Production Support for Dynamic Markets
    Comments: Enhance fishery and aquaculture production efficiency by developing decision support tools that integrate management and marketing.
  3. Analyzing the ‘Seascape’ of the Aquaculture Industry in the U.S.
    Comments: Analyze the enabling conditions and impediments for opportunities to expand and diversify U.S. aquaculture production.

Methods

Each objective above will be addressed by project participants through specific research tasks. Issues and methods associated with each of these tasks are provided below.

 

Objective 1: Marketing, Niches, and New Products

Task 1: Expanding market opportunities for the U.S. aquaculture using local food system

A few specific research project topics are bundled under this task with a common theme of expanding market opportunities for aquaculture through the local foods system and the growing consumers’ preference for local foods. 

Local food systems provide farmers with a higher share of the food dollar, and the money spent at these markets circulates within the community, creating a multiplier effect and providing greater local economic benefits. For example, Brown et al (2014) examined county-level linkages between community-focused agriculture and growth in total agricultural sales and economic growth. The study found some association between community-focused agriculture and growth in total agricultural sales in some regions of the U.S., particularly in New England and Mideast counties, and concluded that their proximity to large urban populations resulted in the local food dollar spreading around more in the food supply chain. In the Great Lakes region, Brown et al (2014) reported that an additional dollar of farm sales generated $0.10 in annualized personal income. This represents opportunities that can benefit the aquaculture industry if they participate in the local food system, particularly for small- to medium-scale fish farmers who, in many cases, have traditionally relied on live ethnic fish markets.

The specific benefits of using the local food system will vary depending on the local conditions. In Indiana, for example, fish farmers may benefit from developing strategic alliances in the local foods system to enable forward linkages with local foods buyers to create demand for locally grown and processed seafood. The ability to process locally is particularly important since it will help fish farmers grow their market and capture more value from the local foods system. To ensure that any potential investments by Indiana fish farmers in the local foods system become valuable and can lead to increased farm profitability, this project will first focus on understanding the local foods system environment in Indiana from chefs at restaurants and institutions (e.g., colleges, healthcare, etc). It will then follow with developing (a) the strategic pathways for Indiana aquaculture products to be included in the local foods system, and (b) a case study business model for aquaculture products for the local foods market in Indiana.

Another avenue of expanding market opportunity via the ‘local food’ lens is to take advantage of the growing consumers’ preference and demand for locally grown/produced food products. We will investigate the consumer preferences for locally produced farmed seafood and how it interacts with other product attributes through case studies and within the specific context of each study. This specificity is expected to identify concrete and tangible strategies and policies that support more successful local aquaculture participation in the broader U.S. market. We propose to focus on the following three case studies under this objective: (a) case study of the farm-raised shrimp industry and market in Hawaii that has proven to be successful, (b) economic and business feasibility of farm-raised seafood in Guam, and (c) applicability of the community supported fishery (CSF) concept to promote demand for locally farmed seafood (RI and other regions).

The case of Hawaiian farmed Pacific white shrimp represents a unique situation where locally grown species are successfully competing with an identical imported product in the local market. Nationally, with limited domestic shrimp fishing sector and a still-born domestic shrimp aquaculture industry unable to compete with low-cost imports, most of the 1.5 billion pounds of shrimp that Americans eat each year is imported from places such as Asia and South America (National Marine Fisheries Service 2020). This situation is not, however, replicated in the state of Hawaii which has developed a small but thriving shrimp aquaculture industry that successfully competes with imported farmed products (Hawaii Department of Agriculture, 2016). Kauai Shrimp in Waimea on the Island of Kauai is one example; this local aquaculture producer annually harvests over one million pounds of Pacific white shrimp that is shipped fresh to local markets shortly after harvest. Hawaii possesses sophisticated seafood consumers (Davidson, et al., 2012) and the success of the local shrimp farming industry against foreign imports of the same species is notable. The proposed study could further our understanding of consumer willingness to pay for specific seafood attributes and highlight factors supportive of local industry success. The research could also enhance the marketing of farmed shrimp in the state of Hawaii and provide insights that improve the marketing of shrimp and other famed species in the broader U.S. market.

The Guam case study will look at the broad spectrum of factors that will enhance the development of the aquaculture industry in Guam. Guam has unique geographic and strategic advantages because of its close proximity to Asia, the center of world aquaculture production. Guam also plays a pivotal role economically among the surrounding islands in Micronesia, which is distinguished among the Western Pacific region for leading the island sustainable development for food security. Guam’s food production industry is mainly based on small-scale and subsistence farming—both in agriculture and aquaculture—and thus heavily depends on imports from the continental U.S. and foreign regions. For small island economies, size and insularity have been traditional reasons explaining the absence of economies of scale, viable markets, labor power and expertise, and business know-how (Baldacchino, 2002). Consequently, the development of a robust and resilient food production sector was often neglected on small islands, but the COVID19 pandemic has acutely raised concerns on food security and safety. Increasing the aquaculture production in Guam and other Pacific island regions (e.g., Micronesia, American Samoa, and the Northern Mariana Islands) can be part of a viable solution, but the small island sector needs to develop and expand significantly. This case study project will (a) investigate how to cultivate the demand for Guam’s farm-raised seafood through effective branding and marketing outreach to local consumers and visitors, (b) explore the connection between the increased demand and improving the livelihood of aquaculturists and producers in Guam, and (c) enhance the overall economic feasibility and resiliency of Guam’s aquaculture sector to mitigate the island’s food supply overdependence on imports. Data will be collected from surveys or interviews on an online or face-to-face basis.

The last case study is investigating whether the concept of CSF can be utilized in promoting locally farmed seafood. Community supported agriculture (CSA) and its seafood variant CSF have become popular vehicles to promote locally grown/harvested foods. According to the Local Catch Network (localcatch.org), there are about 500 CSFs across the U.S. These organizations attracted consumers who wish to support local (and often small-scale) farmers and fishers, and/or those who are willing to try new and unfamiliar food items. Similar interests exist among the restaurant chefs as locally sourced ingredients have become one of the strong selling points, so much so that New Hampshire Community Seafood (a CSF) has been successful in running a Restaurant- Supported Fishery (RSF) program in Portsmouth, NH. Aquaculture can benefit from the CSF/CSA concept, perhaps more so than the wild-caught fisheries, since its cash-flow pattern and risk profile are similar to agricultural farms: much cash is needed at the beginning, relatively long period of growing phase (no revenue during this time) with the risk of potential crop failure, and cash flow in when the crop is harvested. CSF concept in aquaculture may also help to diversify the aquaculture production and market demand, thereby enhancing its resilience to external shocks such as the COVID19 pandemic and climate change.

Task 2: Increase the understanding of consumers’ behavior and reactions in the market

There are three research topics under this task. First is to investigate consumers’ acceptance of genetically modified (GM) aquaculture products and technologies, and the provision of information via food labels under the recently passed “National Bioengineered Food Disclosure Standard,” referred to as “GM Labeling Standard” (Agricultural Marketing Act of 1946, 2016). With the FDA approval of GM Atlantic salmon (but yet to be introduced to the US market), GM seafood is now the thing of reality. However, GM technology is already introduced in aquaculture via the fish feed being used. For example, one study estimated that 70-90% of globally harvested GM crops are used for animal feed, and thus it is becoming increasingly difficult for producers to obtain non-GM fish feed (Sissener et al. 2011). In the new GM labeling standard, these GM fish feed-fed aquaculture products may need to be labeled as such even though the farm-raised fish itself is not genetically modified. The influence of the new GM labeling standard could, therefore, be felt on non-salmon feed-based aquaculture products.

Previous studies exploring the impact of GM technology on foods, mostly those other than seafood, generally find that consumers are averse to the use of GM technology. However, this result does not generally extend to seafood products (Johnston and Roheim 2006). Few studies have investigated the use of GM technology in the aquaculture of salmon, whether it be direct genetic modification or fish feed containing GM ingredients. These studies have also found ambiguous consumer preferences for GM and GM-fed salmon (Chern et al. 2002; Kaneko and Chern 2005; Chern 2006). A more recent study based on 1,000+ survey respondents found that consumers’ willingness to pay is influenced by not just the GM fish but non-GM fish that was fed GM feed (Weir, Uchida, and Vadiveloo 2020). This project aims to add more empirical evidence to this literature, such as incorporating factors including, but not limited to, species type and interaction with the ‘local’ attribute. Our results could inform the policy debate and development by identifying how consumers respond to the expanding use of GM products in the food industry.

The second topic, also related to seafood labeling, is to investigate the cost of having multiple labels and certifications in the market—for both wild-caught and farmed seafood. Unlike the organic label for agriculture-based products (e.g., produce and dairy products), there are multiple labels for sustainability certification alone, sometimes with contradicting advice and potentially creating confusion among consumers (Roheim 2009). This observation might suggest it is preferred to have a single unified label, but one of the research projects completed under the previous W3004 concluded otherwise, citing that different market segments require different standards of sustainability and thus a single label will not serve such market needs (Roheim et al. 2018). However, that is mainly from the producers’ and suppliers’ point of view; the consumers’ preference for single vs. multiple labels on sustainable certification is yet to be determined.

The third topic is investigating the seafood consumers’ perception of their and others’ role in promoting marine conservation. It is related to the sustainability certification of seafood production but sheds a slightly different light on how consumers react to those labels and its consequence on the evaluation of such labels. Social norms are strong drivers of what food we choose to eat and how much of that food we eat. The literature identifies two systematic biases individuals exhibit in the perception of social norms in various context: (a) over-estimate how many other people break social norms, e.g., consume less “Best Choice” seafood products than they do; and (b) over-estimate how many other people act as they do, e.g., consume similar amounts of “Best Choice” seafood products as they do. The interaction of these biases can result in reaching a market equilibrium in which lesser amounts of “Best Choice” seafood products are consumed relative to the correct perception equilibrium. The goal of this project is to understand whether seafood consumers exhibit these biases and how it influences demand for novel seafood products (cell-based seafood) and eco-labeled seafood. These results will inform the degree to which these biases impede achieving demand-driven marine conservation goals and how demand-side interventions can be refined. 

 

Objective 2: Production Support for Dynamic Markets

Task 1: Develop a quota valuation tool for catch shares managed fisheries

This project will aim to develop an online calculator that fishers can use to value individual fishing quota (IFQ) by providing their beliefs regarding future lease prices, future dockside prices, and future total allowable catch values. The calculator would work similarly to bond valuation, where fisher data would be used to measure the future use-value of quota (coupons) to calculate quota NPV. Such a calculator will be useful not only for the incumbent fishers but also for prospective entrants to simulate the likelihood of economic and business success in fisheries.

In general, the Gulf of Mexico red snapper IFQ program successfully achieved the primary goal of decreasing derby-style fishing and the associated race to fish, but results regarding the program’s success at reducing overcapacity in the fishery are less clear (Agar et al., 2014; Ropicki, Willard, and Larkin, 2018). A primary goal of the Gulf of Mexico reef fish individual fishing quota (IFQ) programs was to reduce overcapacity in the fisheries. With catch shares management more efficient harvesters are expected to place a higher value on quota and buy out their less efficient counterparts leading to decreased overcapacity (Squires et al. 1998). However, for this to occur quota trading markets must function effectively; buyers and sellers must be able to find each other with relative ease, participants must have similar access to market trading data and opportunities, and fishers must have an understanding of the value of quota as an asset. Quota valuations are very similar to preferred stock valuation where the value of a share is based, generally, on the expected value of future dividends, quota leasing arrangements in the case of IFQ, which can fluctuate. This task would improve understanding of quota value, enhancing the ability of more efficient harvesters to buy out their less efficient counterparts and make the harvest more efficient. 

While fishers are acutely aware of the in’s and out’s of their fisheries including fishing costs, dockside prices, and environmental conditions affecting fish stocks, many do not have training in finance and the application of financial valuation formulas to value quota as an asset to make informed decisions when attempting to buy and sell quota. The proposed quota valuation calculator would allow fishers to enter their expectations regarding how they expect fish stocks and quota lease prices to change along with their perceptions of risk in the fishery to value quota as an asset. The online quota valuation calculator will be located at either a University of Florida Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences (IFAS) extension or the Florida Sea Grant website. The initial version of the calculator will focus on valuing quota associated with Gulf of Mexico IFQ fisheries (red snapper and grouper-tilefish), but if successful would be expanded to other catch shares managed fishers around the U.S.

Based on the successful implementation and use of this quota valuation tool by commercial fishers we plan to expand this task in the future to cover a broader set of economic and financial resources and tools for fishers and aquaculturists to improve viability and sustainability. Additional future projects being considered are industry-specific: business planning templates, resources on how to access capital markets, extension publications and trainings designed for potential lenders to better understand these businesses and how to measure their creditworthiness, and industry and segment-specific analyses and associated reports on the economic and financial feasibility of new production technologies and techniques.

Task 2: Economic feasibility and financial risk analysis of new and existing U.S. aquaculture industries

Series of projects/analyses examining the economic feasibility and financial risks of different forms of U.S. aquaculture by both species and technique. Projects will involve economic feasibility analysis of new types of aquaculture (marine baitfish aquaculture) and stochastic risk analysis of different forms of aquaculture (pond-based, RAS, and offshore) for several different species.

While the literature on the biological and physical aspects of aquaculture is voluminous and continuing to expand there has been a great deal less attention paid to the economic risks associated with aquaculture and their interaction with production risks. This lack of data on economic and production risks has reduced investment, profitability, and growth of the U.S. aquaculture industry. The complexity of the regulatory environment, foreign competition, social license issues, lack of investment, market uncertainty, diseases, and low-profit margins were some of the identified factors behind limited growth in U.S. aquaculture (Knapp and Rubino, 2016; Froelich et al., 2017; Engle and Stone, 2013; van Senten et al., 2018). Production and marketing uncertainties have played a key role in limiting lending institutions from supporting U.S. aquaculture firms (Engle, 2010). Similarly, risk arising from mortalities and morbidities associated with aquatic diseases also played a key role in deterring investment, reducing prices and profit margins, and contributing to firm failure (Anderson et al. 2018b). At the 2019 Global Outlook for Aquaculture Leadership 2 (GOAL) conference, a survey of industry and investors identified the disease and its associated costs to be the most important risk deterring growth in aquaculture (Anderson et al. 2019). The second and third most important constraints were input price uncertainty and output market risks. Better information on risks related to production, disease, health management, and markets is required for the creation of strategies targeted towards mitigating risk.

Enterprise budgets and financial risk analysis tools are widely used in agriculture to help farmers and investors make business decisions. While the use of such tools is increasing in U.S. aquaculture, information available to aquaculture producers on the economic and financial risks and characteristics of production are very limited relative to agriculture producers. The overall goal of this task is to increase the availability of these tools and information to current and potential U.S. growers and investors. 

Beyond simply providing basic data on economic and financial considerations to aquaculture producers and investors, the goal of this project is to provide data that better measures risks associated with production. Standard enterprise budgets are deterministic bioeconomic models that use averages of production, prices, and costs to predict point estimates of profitability. In reality, financial outcomes of aquaculture enterprises are the product of many stochastic processes including many sources of risk both in inputs, production, and markets, and these are not accounted for in traditional enterprise budgets. In this project, we aim to improve the understanding of risk and devise methods to mitigate risk in aquaculture systems. The primary focus of this task is to analyze the risks of (1) production processes, 2) diseases, and (3) market uncertainty for U.S. aquaculture producers across several species and production techniques.

The first project associated with this task involves researchers from multiple states and was recently funded by NOAA Sea Grant for two years. The overall goal of this project is to provide information about the impact of economic and production risk to producers, investors, bankers, and decision-makers while identifying measures to mitigate risk, increase profitability, and attract investment in U.S. aquaculture. The project aims to develop firm-level, intertemporal economic models evaluating risks and returns in various aquaculture systems (i.e., feed, hatchery, grow-out, and processing/wholesale operations). Models will be designed for three production technologies (recirculating, bottom-culture, and cage systems) and parameterized for three species (salmon, shrimp, and clams). The risks and returns of health management and biosecurity practices, scale, and intensity of production will be analyzed stochastically and ranked to identify the most profitable investments under various risk circumstances and at various modular integration levels. Emphasis will be given to quantifying risks and risk mitigation strategies associated with input prices, output prices, fish health, and disease. The project will provide specific recommendations on how to alleviate risk and increase net returns. A dynamic interface of the model will be developed to enable investors, farmers, and Sea Grant Extension to apply the model to specific circumstances. Training programs/workshops will be conducted to promote the use of the model and to train producers as well as students in risk mitigation aspects of aquaculture. The project deliverables will provide a better understanding of the economic risk associated with aquaculture ventures and foster a more favorable lending environment and greater approvals of loans for aquaculture ventures. 

The second project associated with this task is being funded by the University of Florida to examine the economic feasibility of marine baitfish aquaculture for the recreational fishing market in Florida. In 2016, 5.4 million recreational fishers took 22 million marine fishing trips in Florida and spent approximately $992.9 million on goods and services related to those fishing trips (NMFS, 2018). Based on estimates from 2011 surveys of Florida marine angler trip expenditures, those anglers spent approximately $91.6 million on bait purchases; almost all of the marine bait sold in Florida is currently harvested from wild stocks (Lovell, Steinback, and Hilger, 2013). Live marine baitfish represents a valuable market opportunity for Florida fish farmers. The market is quite large and is supply constrained due to reliance on wild harvest. Lack of consistently available supply represents an opportunity for fish farmers who can control the timing of production.

A recent survey found pinfish was the most popular marine baitfish among Florida marine recreational anglers for nearshore, offshore, and bottom fishing, and was the third most popular species for trolling (Ohs, DiMaggio, and Beany, 2018). Pinfish are also especially supply constrained. The same survey found that 32.7% of anglers felt pinfish were either never or rarely available at Florida bait stands. In addition, live marine baitfish is an extremely high-value product. Given the market size of pinfish, often ranging from 8 to 40 g per fish, the dockside value of these fish can range from $6 to $14 per pound whole fish. This value compares favorably to some commonly farm-raised food fish including red drum ($3 to $3.65/pound), pacific white shrimp ($2.80/pound), and hybrid striped bass ($3.25 to $3.50/pound) (Treece, 2017). Surveys have indicated that bait stands and recreational anglers would be accepting of cultured baitfish (Ohs, DiMaggio, and Beany, 2018; Ropicki and Fuiman, 2020).

This project is developing enterprise budgets, balance sheets, and cash flow statements for the production of pinfish for current and future Florida marine baitfish farmers that would include Monte Carlo simulations of profitability accounting for key risk factors including: environmental risk (red tide, hurricanes, etc.), production risks (disease outbreaks, spawning and survival rates, mortality due to equipment failure), and market risks (marketability, variability in prices received for pinfish and key input prices). In addition to the enterprise budgets, an online financial and risk modeling tool is being created for growers allowing them to produce personal enterprise documents tailored specifically to the size, type, and risks associated with their baitfish farming operation and to evaluate the potential costs and benefits associated with different risk mitigation strategies. The findings of the analysis are going to be presented to potential growers through a series of extension publications and presentations. While this project is Florida specific it has implications for all coastal states with sizeable marine recreational fishing sectors, market analyses in Texas have also indicated a potential market for cultured baitfish (Ropicki and Fuiman 2020). The research team hopes to use these two projects as templates to build off of and develop, or lead to by others, similar studies of other forms of current and potential U.S. aquaculture around the country.



Objective 3: Analyzing the ‘Seascape’ of the Aquaculture Industry in the U.S.

This objective includes project topics that analyze the enabling conditions and impediments for opportunities to expand and diversify U.S. aquaculture production. Unlike objective 1, which focused on the local food system for the expansion opportunity, this objective includes other factors of enabling conditions and impediments such as the socioeconomic perceptions toward aquaculture and political/public support for the industry.

Task 1: Investigating public perceptions of the U.S. aquaculture industry and how to increase public support for the expansion of domestic aquaculture production

There is a significant volume of literature, some dating back to the early 1990s, investigating why U.S. aquaculture production has not been more successful (see Chu and Tudur (2014) for a review). One of the main factors identified is a lack of public support for the industry. This is not unique to the U.S. as public acceptance of aquaculture production is generally lower in the Western than in non-Western countries. This trend is largely the result of a lack of familiarity with modern aquaculture operations (Bacher 2015; Froehlich et al. 2017), as the industry has significantly lagged behind in the West (Garlock et al. 2020a). To effectively reverse these patterns, there is a need for public support, not only at the local level but also at broader regional and national scales (Krøvel et al. 2019). 

At the local level, a lack of community support has hindered the approval of production licenses, which already can be very time consuming and expensive to obtain (Engle and Stone, 2013; Knapp and Rubino, 2016). Regulatory red tape also contributes to higher operating costs (van Senten and Engle, 2017) and there is evidence that regulatory issues have driven seafood industry investors away from domestic investments (Chu et al., 2010). There are several patterns in which an individual may oppose the establishment or expansion of aquaculture operations and industry. One is the not-in-my-backyard (NIMBY) attitude that often exists among coastal residents and property owners (e.g., Hempe 2014). The motivation for NIMBY attitudes include: perceived property value damage (Sudhakaran 2015; Evans, Chen, and Robichaud 2017), conflicts with recreational use of coastal waters, and complaints about aesthetic impacts.

Unfamiliarity with the industry and a lack of knowledge of how it operates makes it difficult for aquaculture production to be accepted by the general public. For example, there are general objections against aquaculture on the basis of its production not being sustainable or environmentally friendly, risk of genetic mix with the wild stock, or the desire to keep the ocean ‘pristine.’ These objections are often founded on misinformation and misconceptions about the industry, and a disconnect among public perceptions of actual vs perceived threats. A domestic example of how these perceptions manifest is the opposition to offshore aquaculture development by people who perceive the potential environmental impacts of aquaculture to be similar to actual environmental disturbances of destructive offshore operations such as oil exploration (Froehlich et al. 2017). Furthermore, although aquaculture has the potential to be more sustainable than terrestrial systems that also focus on the production of animal protein such as beef (Garlock et al. 2020a), aquaculture has received much more negative attention than other protein-producing industries that are more detrimental to the environment (Bacher 2015).

Possessing a detailed understanding of public perceptions of the political, social, economic, and environmental dimensions of aquaculture production is important because public support – or lack thereof – can significantly affect whether aquaculture operations expand or contract (Chu et al. 2010), or whether it is implemented at all (Froehlich et al. 2017). By identifying how the general U.S. population perceives the domestic aquaculture industry, and what societal expectations of this sector are, targeted plans to increase public acceptance of domestic aquaculture production that the American public would be interested in consuming can be developed. At the local level, constructive dialogue and efficient communication and cooperation among all stakeholders involved are imperative for the growth of the aquaculture sector. This is especially important in areas where groups have competing interests and where coastal spaces are contested (Custódio et al. 2020). Identifying the sources of community opposition and support for the industry can allow for better planning of the expansion of the local aquaculture sector and ensure that the industry has economic longevity and positive impacts on surrounding communities.

Task 2: Efficient allocation of coastal leasing for shellfish aquaculture

Many U.S. states lease coastal and nearshore areas for shellfish propagation. The structure of leasing systems varies widely, but frequently individuals are able to obtain and hold a multi-year lease demonstrating relatively minimal use for aquaculture. However, this also causes conflict over the use of that space on/in the water. Recent growth in demand for shellfish aquaculture products on the East Coast, for example, has led to a rapid increase in leased areas, outpacing growth in aquaculture production in many instances. Rent-seeking, market speculation, and conflicts between waterfront property owners and the aquaculture industry have the potential to stifle growth in coastal shellfish aquaculture while also producing sizable social inefficiencies.

This project will investigate the use of coastal areas for aquaculture of eastern oyster (Crassostrea virginica). Empirical production models will be developed to explore the impacts of local environmental conditions, characteristics of nearshore communities, and structural elements of the leasing system on aquaculture production. Project outputs will include decision support tools for industry and managers seeking to site oyster aquaculture operations.

Task 3: Involvement of minorities in fisheries and aquaculture

This project will broadly investigate the participation of minorities, including racial and ethnic groups and women, in U.S. fisheries and aquaculture. The aim of this project is to gain insight into existing opportunities and barriers to formally or informally inhibit or allow minority groups from participating in the production and processing of U.S. farmed and wild-caught seafood products.

Although the literature is limited, existing research shows that ethnic and racial minorities have had varying levels of involvement, including central roles, in U.S. fisheries and aquaculture sectors that are generally perceived as historically being European-American dominated (Blount 2021). However, the current American labor force in these sectors is dominated by men of European descent. The marginalization of minorities in U.S. fisheries largely driven by economic reasons. A lack of access to economic resources, whether it be multi-generational wealth or access to bank loans, has kept people from racial and ethnic minoritized groups at a disadvantage. For example, a lack of access to capital and opportunities to get loans has been identified as a major factor limiting the participation of African-Americans in fisheries in Mid-Coast states, particularly inhibiting their ability to engage in large-scale, commercially- viable operations, making them less competitive in fishing industries than those who can afford to upgrade and scale-up their fishing operations (Blount 2021). However, other factors, aside from lack to access to capital, have inhibited minority groups in the U.S. to have a more significant presence in the fisheries and aquaculture sectors? What societal factors are at play? For example, aside from economic barriers, resource competition and struggles over fishing grounds, and racial struggles led to attacks on First Nations lobster fishermen in Nova Scotia, derailing their ability for these minoritized communities to expand their commercial fishing operations. While such extreme cases have not been as publicly documented in the U.S. (at least not yet), it does not mean that similar power dynamics are not affecting minority groups in the U.S. from having a broader presence in the fisheries and aquaculture sectors.

Studies focusing on the role of women in fisheries in the U.S. are also limited, but research shows that the direct and indirect contributions of women in fisheries and aquaculture have historically overlooked (Harper et al. 2017). In part, this could be due to the low percentage that women represent in these sectors. However, the American workforce has diversified in previous decades, and barriers that have historically kept women from accessing employment opportunities in traditionally male-dominated sectors have shifted. This project will investigate the opportunities and pathways that have emerged to increase women’s participation in U.S. fisheries and aquaculture, as well as existing obstacles that have not allowed for further involvement of women in these sectors. 

Measurement of Progress and Results

Outputs

  • Members will explore the feasibility of collectively pursuing grant opportunities and to facilitate collaborations in research and outreach on the market expansion and marketing of aquaculture and fisheries products.
  • A better understanding of the seascape in which the aquaculture industry is operating, highlighting key factors that contributed, as well as acted as an impediment, to the expansion of the U.S. aquaculture industry. Comments: Objective 3 (Analysing the seascape of the aquaculture industry in the US) as well as Objective 1 Task 1 (Expanding market opportunities for the US aquaculture), and Objective 2 Task 2 (Economic feasibility and financial risk analysis of new and existing US aquaculture industries).
  • A deeper understanding of consumers’ preferences and reactions to various labeling schemes for things such as sustainability and GM seafood. Comments: Objective 1 Task 2 (Increase the understanding of consumers' behavior and reactions in the market).
  • An easy-to-use calculator for valuing the quota in IFQ/catch share fisheries. Comments: Objective 2 Task 1 (Develop a quota valuation tool for catch shares managed fisheries).
  • Peer-reviewed publications, research reports, and professional presentations to disseminate the results of this project.
  • Extension and outreach programs in each of the participating states.

Outcomes or Projected Impacts

  • With information about the status quo seascape surrounding the aquaculture industry, the industry, managers, and policymakers can better strategize the expansion of U.S. aquaculture. Objective 3 (Analysing the seascape of the aquaculture industry in the US) as well as Objective 1 Task 1 (Expanding market opportunities for the US aquaculture), and Objective 2 Task 2 (Economic feasibility and financial risk analysis of new and existing US aquaculture industries).
  • Increased public support for aquaculture both for its operation and demand for its products. Objective 1 Task 2 (Increase the understanding of consumers' behavior and reactions in the market), Objective 3 Task 1 (Investigating public perception of the US aquaculture industry)
  • Increased diversity of aquaculture production and seafood consumption. Objective 1 (Marketing, niches, and new products).
  • Policy suggestions on ways to make aquaculture and fisheries more inclusive. Objective 3 Tasks 3 (Involvement of minorities in fisheries and aquaculture).
  • The quota-value calculator will support more efficient fishing operations in IFQ and catch share fisheries. Objective 2 Task 1 (Develop a quota valuation tool for catch shares managed fisheries).

Milestones

(2022):Convene a meeting of the research team either at the Aquaculture 2022 conference or the Biennial Meeting of IIFET to plan for collaborative grant proposals for projects outlined above and begin applying for research grants.

(2023):Hold a special session at the NAAFE Forum 2023 highlighting this research project (or a subset of research topics outlined above).

(2024):Refinement of research questions and topics will be discussed at the annual meeting and will be made if necessary.

(2025):Hold a special session at the NAAFE Forum 2025 to present the results of this research project.

(2026):Submissions to peer-reviewed journals, develop and deliver outreach programs such as workshops for the industry stakeholders, and write reports based on the research generated by this project.

Projected Participation

View Appendix E: Participation

Outreach Plan

Different mechanisms will be used to communicate the results of this multistate project to all interested parties including, but not limited to, social media, farm tours, pamphlets, fact sheets, journal articles, workshops, and presentations at professional and industry-specific meetings.

For our participating institutions that have the Sea Grant program, we will be partnering with the Sea Grant communication team in various ways to disseminate our findings and engage with the communities. For project outputs applicable to the entire Sea Grant network, we will present results and training at future Sea Grant Week meetings to disseminate findings within the network. Additionally, we will develop presentations directly targeted to key stakeholder groups such as fisheries and aquaculture industry groups to be shared at in-service training of Sea Grant agents and extension specialists on the results of analyses and their application to key stakeholder groups. Where applicable, such as the quota valuation tool and aquaculture enterprise budgets and financial risk tools, these in-service training will be organized as “train-the-trainer” events that will allow Sea Grant agents to present findings and train stakeholders on tool usage.

There are also opportunities to partner with Sea Grant in region-specific activities. For example, the University of Hawaii at Manoa participants will partner with the University of Hawaii Sea Grant College Program on outreach activities to disseminate information from the study through two aquaculture extension faculty working within the Center of Excellence in Sustainable Aquaculture and Coastal Resources, as well as in collaboration with the Aquaculture and Livestock Support Services Branch of the Hawaii Department of Agriculture, through Sea Grant's network of partners throughout the Pacific region. The University of Guam participants will partner with the University of Guam (UOG) Sea Grant Program in activities such as developing curriculum and resources for farm tours and fact sheets, as well as training aquaculture educators, extension professionals, and student research assistants for research methods and outreach modules. The Virginia Institute of Marine Science is the mandated marine science advisor to the state of Virginia, and as such developing research informing products, production efficiencies, and growth in aquaculture or wild-capture industries impacting Virginia seafood businesses will be communicated to relevant management and policy-making organizations within the state through Virginia Sea Grant, as well as entities such as Virginia Marine Resources Commission and Virginia State Assembly.

We will also reach out to the stakeholders outside of Sea Grant through the traditional Cooperative Extension Service avenues. We will utilize the roles that our participants are engaged in the extension network, which will provide us with numerous opportunities for communicating and integrating research outputs into policy and advisory activities. Another avenue of outreach is to utilize participant involvement in various policy commissions and councils. Examples include Dr. Scheld who serves as a member of the Committee on Economics and Social Sciences of the Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission; Dr. Uchida who is serving as a member of the Northeast Fisheries Management Council’s Scientific and Statistical Committee and RI Seafood Marketing Collaborative; and Dr. Leong of NOAA Pacific Islands Fisheries Science Center working with the local stakeholders on regular basis.

Lastly, we will actively seek to participate and solicit feedbacks, onsite or remotely, at the regional and industry meetings including the USDA’s regional Aquaculture Centers’ Conference and Exposition, RI Food Council, Florida Aquaculture Association Meeting and Florida Department of Agricultural and Consumer Services’ Aquaculture Review Council, State Aquaculture and Aquaponics Association Annual Conferences, and Guam Conference for Island Sustainability.

Organization/Governance

Once approved, the initial participants in the project will convene a meeting to elect a new chair, vice-chair, and secretary for the technical committee. These three individuals will be responsible for planning the annual meeting of the project and for coordinating progress on the project. Diego Valderrama will initially serve as Outreach Coordinator for the project.

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Attachments

Land Grant Participating States/Institutions

AZ, FL, GU, IN, MS, OR, RI

Non Land Grant Participating States/Institutions

NOAA, University of California Santa Barbara, University of Hawaii at Manoa, Virginia Institute of Marine Science
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