Aquaculture America 2023

February 23 - 26, 2023

New Orleans, Louisiana USA

Perceptions of Aquaculture: Between the Farm and Table

Saturday, February 25, 2023 9:00 AM - 5:00 PM Galeries 1
Chair: Bill Walton, Adriane Michaelis

Research and engagement efforts targeting the varied sectors that comprise, support, and interact with the aquaculture industry can strengthen the overall understanding of and work surrounding perceptions of marine aquaculture. Specifically, this session features the views and values of culinary professionals and the food service sector. Framed by a US-focused seafood perceptions project, we will host a panel discussion that centers on preferences, purchasing, and overall perspectives from those involved with the purchasing, sale, and preparation of seafood. We consider the role of chefs, servers, wholesalers, and others affiliated with the food service sector in order to better understand how what happens between the farm and the table influences the seafood industry.

To bring a diverse and real-world perspective to these questions, we’ve brought together an exciting panel, including:

  • Cortlandt Avila (Manager, Row 34, Boston, MA)
  • J.T. Mckissack (Sales Manager, Evans Meats and Seafood, Birmingham, AL)
  • Chris Miller (Manager, Pêche; New Orleans, LA)
  • Nicole Mills (Chef, Pêche; New Orleans, LA)
  • Michael-Ann Rowe (Seafood media and marketing expert; NYC)
  • Jeremy Sewall (Chef, Row 34; Boston, MA)
  • Frank Stitt (Chef and owner, Highlands Bar and Grill, Bottega, and Chez Fonfon; Birmingham, AL)



Adriane K. Michaelis* and William C. Walton

Auburn University Shellfish Laboratory

150 Agassiz St.

Dauphin Island, AL 36528

Present email address:


To enable US aquaculture expansion, it is imperative for aquaculture producers to understand potential markets and how to tailor their practices to reach those markets. Research demonstrates that consumers are potentially willing to pay higher prices for local, farmed, and branded marine products (Atlantic Corporation 2019; Brayden et al., 2018; Chen et al., 2017; Petrolia et al., 2014), however little has been done to understand the role of distributors, chefs, and restaurant staff in guiding consumer preferences, purchasing, and markets more broadly. 


This study employed a nationwide effort to understand the factors that influence purchasing as well as knowledge transfer within the US seafood service sector. Using a pandemic-adjusted approach pairing semi-structured interviews with an online survey, seafood chefs, restaurateurs, restaurant purchasers, front of house staff, wholesalers/distributors, and retailers were targeted. Questions focused on the factors that guide purchasing (i.e., why do you buy the seafood that you buy?) and how seafood-related information is obtained and shared.


Results span a range of purchasing-related topics including: seafood information needs, access, and transfer; use of seafood certification programs; distinctions between wild and farmed products; geographic preferences; ranked factors influencing purchase; and US seafood safety and sustainability. In addition, effects of the COVID-19 pandemic on present and future purchasing are considered. 


By focusing on an understudied but potentially influential sector of the aquaculture industry, results from this project benefit: 1) aquaculture producers, who can realize how to better cultivate and/or market their product, 2) industry researchers and proponents who will have greater awareness of potential misconceptions and information needs, and 3) the seafood service sector, who in turn will have enhanced availability of desired aquaculture products and be better positioned to use accurate, science-based information to influence consumers’ buying decisions. 




William C. Walton* and Adriane K. Michaelis

Virginia Institute of Marine Science, William & Mary

1375 Greate Rd., Gloucester Point, VA 23062


Culinary professionals, seafood purchasers, and others involved in the seafood service sector play a key decision-making role in the aquaculture industry. With the potential to impact seafood demand through direct purchasing as well as consumer guidance, engaging with these influential industry members to understand perspectives and the factors that shape purchasing in this sector is critical to advancing US aquaculture. 


In this panel discussion, members and affiliates of the seafood service industry – including chefs, wholesalers, restaurant managers, and a seafood media and marketing expert – are invited to share their perspective in response to the research project used to introduce this session as well as contribute to a broader discussion of the potential to enhance US aquaculture purchasing.