Opportunity Narratives in Down East Aquaculture

Authors: Julia Bingham*, Duke University Marine Lab, Grant Murray, Duke University, Luke Fairbanks, Duke University, Haven Parker, Duke University
Topics: Marine and Coastal Resources, Environmental Perception, Human-Environment Geography
Keywords: aquaculture, media narratives, seafood livelihoods, social wellbeing
Session Type: Paper
Day: 4/7/2019
Start / End Time: 9:55 AM / 11:35 AM
Room: Taylor, Marriott, Mezzanine Level
Presentation File: No File Uploaded


In coastal North Carolina, seafood production is historically integral to culture, economy and support of local livelihoods. In rural coastal Carteret County, referred to colloquially as “Down East,” shellfish aquaculture is significantly expanding. Aquaculture is often promoted as an opportunity to reduce pressure on wild fisheries, generate economic growth, and improve local wellbeing. However, if aquaculture development is driven by political and economic objectives that do not align with those of the community affected, altering modes of local seafood production risks differential livelihood and wellbeing effects. We sought to identify narratives of opportunity and development objectives in Down East arenas of aquaculture discourse and explore how well they align with those of the local community. We conducted thematic analysis of articles from locally distributed newspapers, as news media informs and is informed by local perspectives and so socially constructs public perception and political action. We defined how environmental and cultural values related to seafood production are used to develop narratives in Down East news media of socioeconomic growth, opportunity, and improvement of livelihoods via aquaculture expansion. We then identified objectives of current legislative discourse regarding North Carolina aquaculture. We may thus inquire to what extent those narratives and objectives match the lived experiences and interests of Down East community members with seafood dependent livelihoods. Identification of gaps in local narratives and objectives regarding aquaculture expansion between modes of social construction is important for informing effective and equitable decision-making in efforts to promote a sustainable and resilient Down East community.

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