Changing Oceans – Changing Seafood Consumption. Drivers of sustainable seafood consumption and the questionable power of social norms
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- Institutt for psykologi 
When talking about environmentally friendly ways of eating, the discourse mainly revolves around the consumption of red meat or organic products while seafood is often perceived as the inherently sustainable and healthy option. Environmentally conscious consumers might therefore tend to choose seafood over meat- but is this really “more sustainable”? Scientists are warning that the ocean suffers from overfishing and that the increasing consumption of seafood is posing problems for the environment, economies and livelihoods, especially in developing countries. What does this mean for consumers? Is it possible to consume seafood in a sustainable way? And if yes, how can people be motivated to do so? This PhD project explores what sustainable seafood consumption means in a European context, which behaviours and predictors are connected to this concept and how consumers could potentially be motivated to choose sustainable seafood products. A variety of methods, ranging from a theoretical review, survey data collections and field experiments to a study conducted in a choice lab are used. After exploring and defining the concept of sustainable seafood consumption, the power of social norms to shape consumer decisions are focused on in particular. In Norwegian and German supermarkets, signposts were installed, informing consumers about the sustainable seafood choices of others. The assumption was that consumers would adapt to the behaviours of their peers and make sustainable choices themselves. Contrary to these assumptions, the intervention did not lead to an increased proportion of sustainable seafood sold. Instead, the total seafood consumption significantly rose whenever signposts were installed. Due to this unexpected finding (which could have been caused by various processes) a similar study was repeated in a virtual choice laboratory in Vienna, Austria. The results of this second study pointed towards “food group priming”, which means that the mere exposure to a food group might lead to increased consumption of related products. For environmental communication, this finding poses new challenges: How can sustainable food consumption be encouraged if mentioning sustainable food leads to increased consumption of food in general? This challenge is discussed from various angles and potential pathways for future research are pointed out.