Date of Award


Document Type

Honors Thesis (Open Access)


Colby College. Environmental Studies Program


Loren E. McClenachan

Second Advisor

Sahan Dissanayake

Third Advisor

Travis Reynolds


The global fisheries crisis has led to an increasing recognition for the need to relieve pressure on overfished, popular food fish stocks. Opportunities exist to shift consumer demand toward more sustainable choices, including fish that may be locally abundant. Attempts have been made to market underused fish (sometimes termed “trash fish”) that represent more sustainable alternatives; however, it is unclear whether consumers will choose to purchase these more sustainable options, particularly if underused fish are also unfamiliar. Chapter 1 reviews existing research and current issues surrounding sustainable seafood and the recent shift toward local, abundant, undervalued species in New England’s seafood market. This chapter also provides background on choice experiment surveys, a tool used to gauge consumer preferences. Next, Chapter 2 examines the role of underutilized seafood in New England’s seafood system using a choice experiment survey to investigate consumer preferences for four underutilized species in the northwest Atlantic. The choice analysis examines consumer preferences for the attributes of marketed fish that influence consumers’ buying decisions. Included in the study are pollock, silver hake, Atlantic mackerel, and spiny dogfish, all underused species promoted in Maine through the Gulf of Maine Research Institute’s Out-of-the-Blue initiative. These species are abundant with stable populations in the Gulf of Maine, but have lower landings in relation to their target biomass than cod and haddock. Pollock, silver hake, and spiny dogfish are commonly used as substitutes for cod and haddock. My research finds that while New England seafood consumers prefer well-known species, there is room in the seafood system for underutilized fish, provided it is marketed effectively. Challenges for integrating new types of fish into New England’s seafood market remain, as consumers still prefer overfished species and are generally unwilling to switch to species that they are unfamiliar with or perceive as lower quality. However, recognition and promotion of these underappreciated species is increasing, potentially leading to shifts in consumer preferences away from unsustainable, depleted stocks.


Seafood, sustainability, underutilized, New England, Community Supported Fishery, choice experiment

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