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ARS Home » Research » Research Project #438803

Research Project: Identifying Economic Opportunities for Marine Finfish Aquaculture

Location: National Programs

Project Number: 0500-00104-001-001-S
Project Type: Non-Assistance Cooperative Agreement

Start Date: Jul 1, 2020
End Date: Jun 30, 2024

ARS and its collaborators have developed a list of marine finfish species for which there is sufficient biological knowledge to support aquaculture production, however it is critical to cross-reference this list with economic information to identify the species which have the highest likelihood of success with respect to expanding commercial aquaculture. Scientifically sound information on the existing markets and marketing of marine finfish species will allow for a better understanding of the scale of production required to satisfy the current markets and identify the potential opportunities for new market development for U.S. aquaculture production of marine finfish. Specific Objectives: 1) Assess and summarize the current supply from wild capture, domestic aquaculture production, and international trade for marine finfish species of interest. 2) Assess and summarize consumer preferences for native and locally available marine finfish, including those identified as species of interest by USDA ARS. 3) Assess and summarize distributor preferences and interest in aquaculture marine finfish. 4) Develop outreach and dissemination products to share project findings from Objectives 1, 2, and 3 with USDA ARS and industry stakeholders.

The project team will gather and summarize data on the current market conditions for the 18 warmwater marine finfish species identified in the “Status of Marine Finfish” document developed by USDA ARS. The assessment will focus on the current supply of these species to the U.S. market; sourced from capture fisheries, domestic aquaculture production, and international trade. This summary will depict the size, prevalent product forms, and seasonality of the existing market for these 18 species; and the relative proportion of where these products are currently sourced. Consideration will be given to the effect of increasing supply on prices for these products, depending on the overall size and volume of the existing market. Several of the species identified are considered to be niche market products or regionally consumed products, in which cases saturation of the market would likely result in downward pressure on prices for producers. In addition to assessing existing markets for these species, the team will assess and summarize consumer preferences for selected species that are native or locally available in Southern tier states. Data collection will be performed through a Qualtrics panel targeting seafood consumers (exclusion criteria), in selected key markets in Southern states (e.g. Houston, Miami, New Orleans). Focusing on Southern tier states and native or locally available species increases the likelihood that consumers may have prior experience or familiarity with the species being investigated. Consumer perceptions will aim to assess the frequency of consumption, preferences about location, substitutability with other species, product form, product size, preparation, and price for species being investigated. There are several advantages to using a Qualtrics panel for data collection with consumers; the number of respondents is guaranteed and respondents in specific cities or zip codes can be targeted, in addition the mix of respondents can be targeted to be reflective of overall state demographics. Lastly, the team will attempt to survey seafood distributors in the same Southern tier states as the consumer survey in order to assess their preferences and interest in the selected warmwater finfish species being investigated. Distributors play an important role in the U.S. seafood supply chain, and have unique information on markets, substitution of products, transaction prices, and what it takes to build new markets for seafood products. The project team will, on the basis of anonymity, survey distributors to assess the potential for the selected warmwater marine finfish species being investigated in their Southern tier markets. Data collection from distributors will most likely be performed through a telephone interview, although the proposal team will consult with a known distributor about the preferred method of contact before initiating survey activities. From the three activities described above, outputs and deliverables will be developed for dissemination to USDA ARS and stakeholders that summarize project findings and discuss the considerations and opportunities for expansion of U.S. warmwater marine finfish aquaculture.