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(Mis)managing a risk controversy: the Canadian salmon aquaculture industry's responses to organized and local opposition

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In the past few years, salmon aquaculture has become one of Canada's most controversial industries. Environmentalist and other oppositional groups have mounted aggressive communications campaigns on issues such as the environmental and health impacts of the industry. In coastal regions, local opinion is divided, with some stakeholders and First Nations (indigenous) groups vehemently opposing the industry, while others see it as an important contributor to stressed coastal economies. In this article, we analyse industry responses to both organized and local opposition. Existing research on risk communication and 'risk issue management' tells us that important strategies for addressing controversy include building public trust, acknowledging the legitimacy of critics and their concerns, engaging in transparent and pro-active risk communication, establishing meaningful partnerships with stakeholders, and ultimately reforming controversial practices. Drawing on an analysis of advocacy materials and transcripts from public hearings into aquaculture, we conclude that the salmon aquaculture industry has been largely unsuccessful in its attempts to blunt criticism from organized oppositional groups, but has taken some important (if tentative) actions to enhance its legitimacy at the local level.
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Keywords: Indigenous peoples; aquaculture; environment; public engagement; risk communication; trust

Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: 1: Department of Sociology and Anthropology, University of Ottawa, Canada 2: Department of Geography, University of Victoria, Canada

Publication date: 01 December 2010

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