Let’s Talk Seafood: Romanian Acceptability of Marine Aquaculture at a Glance
AbstractDespite the continuous population growth and the need for high-quality food, the social acceptance or non-acceptance of aquaculture by the inhabitants of a particular region affects the development of the sector by modulating consumption and, implicitly, profitability of this activity. In the Mediterranean and Black Sea areas, there was a rapid expansion of aquaculture after the 1990s, but regulation from a legislative point of view was much slower than the development of the sector itself, at least in the Black Sea region. The process of selecting suitable locations, as well as the allocation of zones for aquaculture (AZA), are relatively recent issues promoted by the General Fisheries Commission for the Mediterranean (GFCM). Moreover, the social acceptability of aquaculture and, implicitly, of the resulting products (shellfish and or finfish) also concerns the issues related to food safety and public health risks all the more so. In this respect, the major problem that prevented both the cultivation and harvesting of bivalves from the natural environment in Romania was the lack of a microbiological classification of Black Sea waters, as required by Regulation (EC) no. 627/2019 - an aspect finally settled in 2020 by the initial classification of all designated production and relaying areas of live bivalve mollusks - Chituc - Perișor, Mamaia Bay and Agigea - Mangalia - in class A. In this context, the attitudes and preferences of seafood consumption and the perception and acceptance of marine aquaculture in Romania were explored by developing and submitting a survey with 26 closed questions, with multiple choice answers. A total of 499 questionnaires were collected from a wide range of respondents all around the country, mainly focusing on the residents from the coastal area, but also from the rest of the country, including Bucharest. The results of the survey were analyzed, and they indicate that, in Romania, despite the environmental and administrative-legislative drawbacks (the latter partially resolved through the microbiological classification) that have hindered, so far, the development of mariculture, there is potential for enhancing social acceptability of this activity. Most respondents were open to consuming aquaculture products, considering, in total, that shellfish aquaculture can bring multiple benefits from the economic, social and environmental point of view.
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