Is social license to operate relevant for seaweed cultivation in Europe?

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The need for more sustainable sources of food, chemicals, and energy, combined with the European Union's Blue Growth Agenda and national policies of European Economic Area member states, has facilitated increasing interest in the cultivation of seaweed in European waters. There have been several research projects looking at the economic and environmental feasibility of seaweed cultivation as a low carbon commercial endeavour, however there is very little in the way of contextual social research. Given mounting evidence of a decline in social acceptability of aquaculture activities (both shellfish and finfish) at a site level, it is imperative to improve understanding of where seaweed cultivation might fit within this picture. The aim of this study is to explore site-scale social interactions of seaweed cultivation using social license to operate as the analysis framework. Two in-depth case studies in were chosen to cover a developing commercial seaweed cultivation industry (France) and an embryonic one (Scotland) in addition to a survey of seaweed cultivation organisations across five European countries. The findings show that interpersonal relationships, perceptions of environmental risk, scale of decision-making and of operations, and communication were key to local perceptions of seaweed cultivation operations in both case studies. The views of seaweed cultivation organisations on social interactions and the usefulness of the social license to operate concept for this emergent industry is discussed.
Original languageEnglish
Article number736203
Number of pages10
Early online date24 Nov 2020
Publication statusPublished - 15 Mar 2021


  • Social license
  • Seaweed cultivation
  • Trust
  • Legitimacy
  • Consent


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