Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Master of Arts in Marine Affairs


Marine Affairs

First Advisor

Tracey Dalton


With the recent expansion of aquaculture in New England, it has become increasingly difficult for aquaculture growers with farm proposals to advance past the permitting process due to public opposition. The substantial lack of innovative strategies for understanding and addressing the public’s perceptions of aquaculture development in the Northeast has created conflict in expanding sustainable farming. Through 15 focus group discussions during the summer of 2021, this study assesses how people who live in Rhode Island and Massachusetts think about farm design and examines their attitudes towards aquaculture impacts and governance. By identifying the general public’s preferences and perceptions, findings from this study can be used to lessen conflict between stakeholders. Results suggest that the public holds strong preferences towards certain farm features, and that their perceptions of farms are directly connected to the local aquaculture impacts, whether such impacts are environmental, economic, or recreational. Focus group findings document trends associated with conflicts, tradeoffs, and informational needs of the public and the aquaculture industry. This study improves understanding of public interests and concerns regarding farm design and operations, and offers strategies for coastal management organizations, public policy makers, aquaculture growers, and researchers. These practical recommendations could lead to farm lease proposals that are more acceptable to the public, outreach efforts that better address stakeholder concerns, and more effective public engagement in aquaculture discussions.



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