2014 | 23 | 4-20
Article title

Exploring Ecopreneurship in the Blue Growth: A Grounded Theory Approach

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Fisheries and aquacultures, the farming of fish, provide people livelihoods in rural and coastal societies all over the world. Fish, mussels, crabs and seaweed are captured in wild seas, lakes, and rivers or farmed in ponds, raceways, and cage cultures. Simultaneously, the fisheries sector faces many challenges: Overfishing endangers biodiversity and the natural regeneration capacity of marine resources; inequality occurs in case of the distribution of fishing permissions and technologies; the skyrocketing economic growth of aquaculture (so called ‘Blue Growth’) can lead to high environmental risks. All these dynamics cause social changes for fishers and fish farmers and in consequence for the future of their enterprises. In particular, the imbalance between supply from overfished oceans and the increasing demand for seafood grows from year to year. Modernising the aquaculture sector and its intensification seem to be the only possibility to close this gap and is one of the most important aims of the current reform of the Common Fisheries Policy of the European Commission. Thus, to match the challenges for marine fisheries in the near future is closely related to the further development of marine and inland aquaculture. But, conventional aquacultures are often connected with environmental risks. One possibility to overcome the environmental challenges and to reduce the pollution output of aquacultures at the same time can be seen in an ecological modernisation of the sector. The central protagonist in an ecological modernisation is the ecological orientated entrepreneur (ecopreneur). In the last decades a few ecopreneurial inland fish farmers have started to adopt two very different ecological innovations: idea−based organic practices or technology−based recirculating aquaculture systems. Nowadays, it is not certain whether these both ‘green’ innovations will diffuse or not in the aquacultural sector. Using the Grounded Theory approach, biographical interviews with German fish farmers, both ecopreneurial pioneers and conventional farmers, were conducted and analysed to carry out the underlying reasons for or against the implementation of ecological innovations from the point of view of the adopting unit: the fish farmers. Building on empirical insights as well as sociologies of social change and diffusion of innovations, a middle−range theory of ecopreneurships in aquaculture was developed, which addressed the apparently simple question: Why do some fish farmers adopt an ecological innovation, and some do not? Basically, our results show, that fish farmers' decision−making−process towards an ecological innovation is not only guided by economic cost−benefit calculation, but by a complex of patterns, where economic perspectives meet ecological motives as well as social aspects. By trend, those fish farmers, who had a strong ecological motivation, were embedded into a ‘green−minded’ social network and had a high degree of identification with their innovative production method, were willing to take higher risks in the adaption process of an ecological innovation than their conventional colleagues. Furthermore, our article argues that there is a need for further sociological approaches in fisheries and aquaculture research to understand patterns of acting motivation among seafood protagonists in deep. Understanding the fish farmers’ perspectives, their construction of reality, can provide a sustainable fisheries and aquaculture management policy, which will be widely accepted by the individuals concerned.
Physical description
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  • Department of Agricultural and Food Marketing, Faculty of Organic Agricultural Sciences, University of Kassel
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