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Perceptions of seaweed aquaculture in Santa Barbara and Ventura counties


Rilum, Sydney; Gaun, Janelle; McEwen, Madeline; Wee, Laurel (2022), Perceptions of seaweed aquaculture in Santa Barbara and Ventura counties, Dryad, Dataset,


Marine seaweed aquaculture provides sustainable forms of food, fertilizers, and pharmaceuticals while potentially contributing to nutrient mitigation, habitat creation, and short-term carbon sequestration. The industry in the United States is underdeveloped due to a combination of economic, social, and regulatory constraints. These constraints exist in California where there is an insufficient understanding of how the public and key stakeholder groups perceive seaweed aquaculture, which appears to limit political support for or against further developing the industry. Our study conducted a public survey and semi-structured interviews with key stakeholder groups to determine perceptions of seaweed aquaculture and whether it has a Social License to Operate (SLO) in Santa Barbara and Ventura counties. Survey results indicate less public opposition to seaweed aquaculture than described in the scientific literature and by stakeholders associated with the industry, with a majority (56.8%) of residents in support of seaweed aquaculture expansion and relatively few (8.8%) in opposition. Many residents are unfamiliar with the implications, benefits, and impacts of the industry. Communication strategies to inform stakeholder groups should provide clear and accessible information to stakeholders so they will be more likely to form positive perceptions of seaweed aquaculture and support future projects. Interview analysis suggests that offshore seaweed aquaculture in southern California has a conditional SLO. Despite widespread support from the scientific community and public, and general acceptance from federal agencies, the industry has not shown accountability to environmental non- governmental organizations (ENGOs) and state agencies. Pilot projects can build interactional trust with influential ENGOs and the fishing industry.


Survey Data & Analysis

An online survey was developed to understand public perceptions and support for expanding seaweed aquaculture in Santa Barbara and Ventura counties. The survey questionnaire was created using Qualtrics’ web-based survey interface and consisted of 22 questions (all closed- ended except for one open-ended) and 11 demographic questions (see Appendix B2 for survey matrix). The survey took an average of eight minutes to complete. Human Subjects protocol required all survey questions be optional and thus we could not force a response to any question in the survey. An anonymous online consent form required the participant to select whether they accept or decline participation before beginning the survey. The statement included our survey’s purpose, confidentiality, and anonymity.

Survey responses from the paid and self-distributed surveys were compiled into an Excel (.csv) spreadsheet and analyzed in R using RStudio version 4.1.2. Survey analyses were coded and created reproducibly in R using RStudio and stored on an open-source GitHub repository. All data files and R markdown documents (.Rmd) are publicly available on our team’s GitHub repository. Survey data and metadata files are also archived in the UCSB library.

Interview Data & Analysis

Twelve semi-structured interviews were conducted with subject matter experts in five key stakeholder groups: government agencies, environmental non-governmental organizations (ENGOs), commercial and recreational fishers, aquaculturists, and the scientific community. Interviewers followed an interview guide created to guide questions and topics of discussion while giving researchers the flexibility to explore topics introduced by the interviewee and ask for clarification, explanation, or examples (see Appendix C1 for interview guide). Interviews were conducted over Zoom, a video teleconferencing software program. Each interview lasted 30 to 60 minutes and were attended by two to four researchers. Participants signed consent forms indicating their voluntary participation and willingness to be recorded (see Appendix C3 for consent form). At the beginning of each interview, researchers verbally confirmed the participants’ voluntary participation and consent to be recorded. Interview audio and video recordings were stored in a secure cloud-based Box folder until transcribed using the word-to-text program Descript 29.1.2. Interview transcriptions are not included in the project’s publicly accessible data. As stated in the participant consent form, interviewee names and affiliations are required to remain anonymous.

*For complete methodology, refer to methods section in Final Report pdf document.

Usage Notes

Files attached:

  • README.txt
    • Description of project dataset
  • survey_data.csv
    • Survey response dataset used in analyses
  • survey_metadata.csv
    • Column descriptions for survey_data.csv
  • KelpWanted_Final_Report_and_Appendices.pdf
    • Master's thesis, with appendices
  • KelpWanted_Executive_Summary.pdf
    • Executive summary of master's thesis


Sustainable Ocean Alliance, Ocean Leadership Microgrant Program, Award: $2,000