Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

First Advisor

James W. Avault, Jr


Despite increasing institutional focus in aquaculture, sustainability remains an amorphous and much debated concept. Little consensus has been identified on the issue beyond the general recognition that the concept should contain environmental, economic, and sociological considerations. This study addressed the specific, relevant question of whether politically diverse aquacuiture interests can collectively develop and agree on production-level goals and indicators of aquaculture sustainability. The research partitioned sustainability into its three subcategories: environmental, economic and social. This division facilitated the use of existing conventions of measurement and expression in each subcategory. Employing a modified Delphi technique, over 100 aquaculture stakeholders in the Southeastern U. S. were surveyed for the purpose of identifying and refining indicators of aquaculture sustainability. Aquaculture producers, researchers, regulators, and members of non-governmental organizations participating in a three-round Delphi survey and collectively identified 31 indicators of aquaculture sustainability. Survey participants provided 1,622 items for consideration as potential indicators in round 1. These items were condensed by similarity into 31 indicators and returned to the panel for comment in rounds 2 and 3. Non-parametric statistical analysis of the survey data indicated a high level of panel agreement by the final round of the survey. Significant levels of ordinal rank correlation were detected using Friedman's randomized block design (alpha = 0.05). Increasing levels of rank convergence were detected by high values for Kendall's statistic of concordance ( W∼0.65. . Indicators were arranged into preliminary sub-indices of environmental, economic, and sociological sustainability. Sub-indices were combined into an overall index based on a trigonometric approach that expresses aquaculture sustainability as the ratio of case study and optimal vectors, with a relevant scoring range of --100 to 100. The resulting model is referred to as a multi-criteria index of Delphi-assessed sustainability (MIDAS). A 50-hectare, owner operated simulation was used to initialize case studies with channel catfish (Ictalurus punctatus) and crawfish (Procambaraus clarkii) and (Procambarus zonagulus). Case study scores ranged from 18 to 24 for crawfish and channel catfish production, respectively. With further refinement, to index has potential for production level evaluations of aquaculture sustainability in the Southeastern United States.