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Australian researchers tackle RAS and social acceptability

February 1, 2023  By  Nestor Arellano

(Image: Fisheries and Oceans Canada)

With the rapid development and global adoption of technologies associated with land-based aquaculture, researchers based in Australia are recommending that more study be done into the issues around social acceptability of recirculating aquaculture system (RAS) technologies.

While there are lessons and insights that can be gained from the literature dealing with inshore and offshore aquaculture, there is little empirical research into the social acceptability profile for RAS aquaculture, according to the research titled, “Social acceptability and the development of commercial RAS aquaculture.”

This research was conducted by the Australian Research Council Industrial Transformation Hub for Sustainable Onshore Lobster Aquaculture.

“Despite optimism about the potential for RAS aquaculture production, questions about RAS production methods are beginning to emerge,” the authors of the research said. “In turn, such questions trigger a question about the role social acceptability in the extent to which RAS-based industries can establish and expand.

“While social concerns about negative environmental effects are not expected to offer the same challenges that apply to existing inshore aquaculture,” they said, “the competition for land, and energy costs and their carbon footprint are key issues the industry will need to consider where expansion is pursued.”

Core determining factors for social acceptability such as legitimacy, credibility, and trust should also be considered.

In the promotion of RAS, several benefits have been touted including biosecurity, fish health, reduction of pressure on wild capture fisheries, lessening of negative of water quality  and impact on the ecosystem. Yet, questions about RAS production methods are beginning to emerge the researchers said.

The questions include: whether demands for high value aquaculture product may predominate, the effects of RAS production on finfish health and the potential negative environmental effects of the amount of land, water and energy required to grow finfish on land at commercial scales. “Such questions raise concerns about the ways in which social acceptability will play a role in the extent to which RAS-based industries can establish and expand,” according to the research.

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