Deliverable 4.6

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Report on social awareness, attempts to stimulate fish consumption and negative press

Executive summary


During the last decades, fish consumption has registered a significant increase (FAO, 2014), fish becoming one of the most consumed products, in big part due to the expanded worldwide popularity of Asian cuisine, especially sushi. Unfortunately, increased popularity means increased demand, which leads to overfishing and its negative ecological impact.

The example of fish is very representative when talking about the tragedy of commons which means the exhaustion of common natural resources by people whose objective is to maximize their individual utility (Hardin, 1968). Each fisherman rationally prefers to catch as much fish as possible to increase the profit. Due to this way of thinking, the stocks of wild fish are constantly reduced, people being interested in short-term gains and not in long-term consequences.

The decrease of natural stocks stimulated an important interest for farmed fish. To satisfy the demand, farmed production was doubled compared to the beginning of XXI century, making aquaculture the fastest growing food sector in the world with almost 70 million tons of annual production (FAO, 2014). The industry of fish products has one of the most impactful consequences for global food security and environment. For obtaining 1 kg of farmed fish, 2 to 5 kg of wild fish are used as meal, which means a waste of natural resources (Lang et al., 2009). Furthermore, the farming sites have an important impact on the quality of the nearby waters. The medications and pesticides designated for farmed fish growth are further dispersed in the waters and damage the normal functionality of the ecosystem. In addition to all these negative effects, consumers prefer to buy wild fish, perceiving the quality of farmed fish as unsatisfactory (Verbeke et al., 2007b). This preference will most likely increase the damage on the ecosystem.

Theoretical framework

The model used in this work is based on the Ajzen and Fishbein’s (1975) theory of reasoned action (TRA). This theory is systematically used in the analysis of behaviours related to food consumption and changes in diet (Ajzen and Timko, 1986; Povey et al., 1999).

According to the TRA, the behavioural intention is the main determinant of the behaviour. Behavioural intention is composed of two dimensions: Attitude towards behaviour and subjective norms. Attitudes are formed by behavioural beliefs that could potentially be influenced by increased knowledge (Fishbein and Ajzen, 2011). This means that exposure to information on a specific subject increases consciousness and, therefore, influences behavioural beliefs that determine a positive or negative attitude toward behaviour (Müller and Gaus, 2015). In this work, it’s therefore assumed that the reasoned action model of Fishbein and Ajzen (2011) is applicable in the case of changes in diet due to health or environmental problems resulting from exposure to information on a food issue.

Materials and methods

3766 salmon consumers from five European countries were interviewed. In fact, the same respondents had to respond to two questionnaires that were sent to them with an interval of 15 days. The first questionnaire consisted mainly of socio-demographic data, sensitivity to health and the environment, and a first measure of their attitudes towards salmon. In the second questionnaire, respondents received an article on the negative impacts of salmon consumption. Four different articles could be presented either about health or environmental issues, from an official government source or an informal blog. After reading the article, consumers had to answer questions about the credibility of the information, before facing for the second time the questions regarding attitudes. They were also asked about their future consumption behaviour and the intention to choose labelled products was also esteemed.


First, the usefulness of information was confirmed for all the four types of messages. However, the messages presented from official sources had higher credibility scores than those presented from blogs.

All the types of stimuli (presenting information on health or environmental impact) negatively impacted the average value of attitudes related to salmon consumption. In addition, respondents who faced a negative message about the health problems linked to salmon consumption have deteriorated their attitudes toward health items, as well as toward environmental items (and vice versa). However, salmon consumers are generally more sensitive to health problems than to environmental problems. Even though the credibility of official and unofficial messages was perceived differently, surprisingly there is no significant difference in attitude changes with respect to the source of information.

As for behavioural intentions, the highest score is recorded for the intention: "read more carefully the information presented on the salmon label / package" while the lowest is marked for "no longer eating salmon".


According to the results, exposure to a negative message has a significant impact on consumers' attitudes and intentions. The attitudes related to health aspects (healthy and safe) decrease by 13.5%, while the attitudes related to environmental aspects (good for environment, ethical, sustainable) decrease by 14.4%. Furthermore, regardless of the content of the messages, respondents deteriorated their assessments of the health characteristics of salmon consumption, as well as assessments of environmental characteristics. However, there is no difference in the impact of the information source on attitudes. This means that despite the lower perceived credibility of private blogs, these sources of information can have an impact on consumer attitudes. Therefore, encouraging the development of informal sources of information can also enable rapid and accessible communication in the event of a food crisis.

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