Social license to operate for aquaculture – A cross-country comparison

Olsen Marit Schei, Vilde Steiro Amundsen, Karen A. Alexander, Ragnheidur Thorarinsdottir, Maria Wilke, Tonje C. Osmundsen

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Salmon aquaculture production has grown considerably in recent years, and parallel to this growth public interest in production and product has also increased. In most salmon producing countries there have been reports of both public dismay and support for the industry. In this paper we investigate and compare public perceptions, understood as to what degree the industry has a social license to operate, across three countries. In Tasmania (AU), Iceland and Norway, the salmon aquaculture industry has a varying foothold, something which is also reflected in public perceptions. An outline of the three contextual settings is therefore provided. We undertook surveys using a standardized questionnaire which was distributed to respondent panels in the three countries. The data was analyzed using descriptive statistics. The findings show some similarities and notably mostly differences between the respondent groups. A comparative approach as reported here requires understanding of contextual factors to offer explanatory power to the analysis. The results from the comparative survey is therefore discussed in light of the various contextual settings. We found that many respondents are supportive of the aquaculture industry in their respective countries (Iceland less so), but that there is something amiss, which the respondents feel is not achieved. While support is related to industry contributions of food production, employment, and business activity, the respondents also report acceptance of the industry and view the industry to be important. However, the respondents are less supportive of the industry with regards to sustainability, industry regulation, and distribution of economic benefits. We suggest that efforts to increase societal support for aquaculture must be adapted and related to the contextual environment the industry operates in, both locally and nationally. A pivotal element in this context is the public's knowledge of the industry, which is deemed important for their assessment of perceived advantages and challenges posed by the industry on both local and national level, and the necessary trade-offs between them in forming a supportive or critical opinion.
Original languageEnglish
Article number740662
Early online date13 Feb 2024
Publication statusPublished - 15 Apr 2024


  • Comparative survey
  • Public perceptions
  • Salmon aquaculture
  • Social license to operate
  • Societal acceptance

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Aquatic Science


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