Date of Award

2017

Degree Type

Dissertation

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy in Environmental and Natural Resources Economics

Department

Environmental & Natural Resource Economics

First Advisor

Hirotsugu Uchida

Abstract

Sustainable seafood programs have developed and evolved for approximately two decades as a market-based mechanism to complement the traditional “command and control” fishery management scheme. In some cases, they have successfully incentivized fishmen/fish farmers around the world to implement more environmentally sustainable production practices. It is not a perfect system capable of solving every fishery management issue immediately, but it is unequivocally one of the most promising mechanisms to slow down the degradation of wild fishery stocks or reduce environmental impacts from aquaculture, while improving the resilience of coastal fishery communities. As wild fishery stocks continue to decline, aquaculture production is becoming the main global seafood source. There is also increased awareness and importance of environmental impacts and consumer preferences of farmed seafood.

China is the largest producer and consumer of farmed seafood; thus, aquaculture sustainability is an important concern of both the Chinese government and its seafood industry. The promotion of sustainably farmed seafood, however, has not recently been successful in China. Some reasons could be the ineffectiveness of marketing strategies and lack of consumer awareness. This dissertation makes use of the well-developed Chinese online retail market and an experimental auction to conduct three studies evaluating the impact of the country of origin, eco-labels, and certification standards information on consumer preferences for farmed seafood. By incorporating consumers’ subjective perceptions of quality, food safety, and eco-friendliness, we were able to allocate consumer willingness to pay (WTP) for a product into basic product attributes.

Combining three studies draws the following conclusions. Among farmed seafood products, imported seafood is the Chinese consumers’ first choice when there is no safety information. With guaranteed food safety, a higher price premium is generated for domestic farmed seafood, but not for imported. An eco-label does not generate a price premium in the current market, but consumers are willing to pay for it as long as they are informed of the public benefits of sustainable certification. Private and public benefit information, together, can significantly increase consumer WTP for sustainably farmed seafood, especially regarding safety and eco-friendliness. In sum, this thesis confirms the significant potential of the sustainably farmed seafood market in China and suggests seafood producers and retailers participate in sustainable seafood programs.

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