Date of Award


Level of Access Assigned by Author

Open-Access Thesis

Degree Name

Master of Science (MS)


Resource Economics and Policy


Caroline Noblet

Second Committee Member

Keith Evans

Third Committee Member

Laura Rickard


Coastal communities are host to a suite of economic, cultural, and natural resources, and are often focused around a core such as tourism, beaches, fisheries, or processing. In nearly all cases, coastal communities survive based upon the resources in the surrounding coastal areas and water. As wild fisheries begin to stagnate, many traditional fishing communities are forced to look elsewhere for economic sustenance. While tourism or real estate may provide relief, residents often require a more stable, year-round income. Some coastal communities have begun to transition away from wild fisheries and towards marine aquaculture, or, the cultivation of marine animals and plants for food.

Although marine aquaculture is not a new phenomenon, much of it has been focused on the farming of finfish, such as salmon. Shellfish and seaweed farms, on the other hand, have only recently begun to emerge in coastal communities, often as small, family-owned businesses, employing local residents. Although the shellfish and seaweed sectors of the marine aquaculture industry are eager to expand, little research has been done on these two sectors. This analysis uses economic methods and data from choice experiments and a survey in order to assess consumer preferences for farm-raised and wild harvested shellfish and seaweed salad. The assessment explains consumer preferences and their potential impacts on harvesters, coastal communities, and natural resource use.

The first chapter investigates consumer preferences for shellfish and seaweed salad attributes including production process (farm raised, wild harvested), certification (organic, sustainably harvested, non-certified), and origin (home state, U.S., imported). Data from a nationwide coastal online survey and conjoint experiments for oysters, clams, mussels, scallops, and seaweed salad were used to determine consumer willingness to pay for these attributes. A random parameter mixed logit model shows that consumers are willing to pay more for products that are wild harvested, certified, or from their home state. This research can be used to improve marketing and to facilitate producer and policy decisions for the sustainable expansion of aquaculture.

The second chapter more closely analyzes the potential impacts the research could have on the aquaculture industry using both quantitative and qualitative data for farm-raised seafood. We explore seafood consumer purchasing habits and find that seafood labeling plays a large role in the purchasing process, and could thus benefit farmers by presenting them with a medium to highlight the origin and any certification of their products. Results suggest that this could be an extremely effective tool for receiving higher prices when products are sold within the state in which they are produced. The results of this work will be relayed directly to members of the seafood industry through future publication in an industry journal.

Understanding consumer preferences for shellfish and seaweed salad is crucial as many coastal communities are forced to shift away from their traditional economic dependence upon wild fisheries. This research has implication for the wild harvest industry, aquaculture industry, natural resource policy and management, and coastal communities. Improved knowledge of consumer preferences could allow for shellfish and seaweed harvesters and farmers to garner price premiums while maintaining sustainable ecological methods. This could potentially increase stable, year-round jobs in coastal communities in harvesting, processing, transportation, and more.

As many coastal communities face issues including a changing local economy and climate, this information will become increasingly more important, as it will allow for coastal community residents and policy makers to make better-informed decisions for the long-term success of these communities.


A one year embargo will be placed on this work.