Our methodology

The Aquaculture Governance Indicators (AGIs) are a social-scientific assessment framework for measuring governance performance of aquaculture production in terms of environmental sustainability. The unit of analysis is on country/species-level.  


The AGIs consist of 26 indicators, which are broken down into 75 criteria. The AGI methodology is based on a mixed-methods approach. In other words, it uses both quantitative and qualitative methods for data collection and analysis. Scroll for more info.


Determine scope & objective


Form assessment team


Preparation & data collection


Conducting AGIs assessment


Review & publishing



AGI Methodology 

The Aquaculture Governance Indicators (AGIs) are a social-scientific assessment framework for measuring governance performance of aquaculture production in terms of environmental sustainability. The methodology takes a mixed-methods approach, modeled off of the Fishery Performance Indicators (FPIs) developed by Anderson and colleagues (2015).


A general overview is outlined below. Detailed steps for conducting an assessment are provided in the AGI handbook (see also our News & Resources).

1. Determine objective and scope


The first step is to define the objective and the scope (e.g. country level vs. specific species). A more general overview would determine overall governance performance by aggregating legislation, voluntary codes/standards, and arrangement of various actors involved. For example, different production systems (e.g. land-based and coastal/near-shore) are jointly assessed. From this, if it is concluded that there is low overall performance and/or that there is a lot of variation (e.g. in coverage by different standards or between production systems), a more focused analysis can be conducted.

2. Form assessment team


Through piloting the AGIs across a series of countries, we have determined that the ideal assessment team consists of:

a) someone who has experience in social science research methods, i.e. someone experienced in, and confident with, conducting interpretive research and knowing how to reconcile and weigh diverse perspectives; and

b) someone who has expertise within the targeted aquaculture species/country.

Note that it is important that both assessors have a good understanding of the AGI framework. 

In some cases, it is possible that these qualities are possessed by one person but in most cases, the team is made up of co-assessors, with each individual having strengths in one of the two areas above.

3. Preparation and data collection


Before assessors can start scoring the indicators, they have to go through identification steps for each of the four governance dimensions, which allows them to identify what is to be assessed: law, regulations and state responsibilities (dimension 1); voluntary codes and standards (dimension 2); collaborative arrangements (dimension 3); and capabilities of which actors (dimension 4). Guidance for this along with the selection procedure are outlined in the AGI handbook.

The first step of the assessment consists of desk research since, in many (but certainly not all) cases, a significant amount of the data can be gathered through various online sources (e.g. regulations/policy documents, industry/society reports, government websites, academic literature, news/media). Indeed, the AGIs are designed to not solely rely on primary data collection, but as much as possible on information that is publicly available (e.g. legislation, standards). For example, information related to aquaculture-related legislation and regulations within a country can be found online (e.g. FAO National Aquaculture Legislation Overview).

Desk study research is complemented by qualitative data collection through interviews with key informants (a question list for semi-structured interviews is provided in the AGI handbook). In addition, workshops can be organized to create an interactive setting for a group interview. Interviews come into play either when information is difficult or not possible to find via desk research or an expert opinion is needed to triangulate evidence already gathered. The benefit of using multiple data sources and mixed methods is that it allows for verifying and validating information.

4. Conducting the AGIs assessment


There are two components to conducting the AGIs assessment:

Scoring (quantitative) 


Each criterion within the AGIs indicators is measured on a Likert scale of 1 to 5 (lowest to highest performance) with each level of the scale corresponding to specific and defined criteria (all weighed equally). In addition, a confidence score regarding the accuracy of the score (as determined by the assessor) is recorded from A (high), B (medium), and C (low). Detailed guidance, including sources to consult, for scoring and assessing all 75 criteria are provided in the AGIs handbook.


Interpretation (qualitative)


Data analysis is based on an interpretative research approach. The AGIs assessment is aimed to reveal perceptions, actions and the specific socio-political and historical context related to a country's aquaculture governance. The interpretative analysis is guided by our theoretical framework.


The AGIs are based on systematically interrelated parts, e.g. four governance dimensions, and three governing principles. The analysis is structured through a step-by-step synthesis, from indicators to indicator groups (principle-level) to an aggregation on the level of dimensions. Although the scores (weighted equally) are calculated accordingly (to indicate stronger and weaker performance on the level of principles and dimensions), the AGIs are not designed to produce an overall calculative assessment.


The AGIs are aimed to serve as an argumentative tool, to identify “gaps” and to define actionable insights which can be used for engaging governments, industry and civil society actors in discussions over governance improvement.


Data for both scoring and interpretation is collected in a custom spreadsheet template provided to the assessor(s) by the Wageningen University AGI core team. 

5. Review & publishing


Once the assessment has been completed it is sent to the Wageningen University AGI core team where it is reviewed and sent back to the assessor(s) who make any necessary revisions and send the final assessment back. From here, a peer-review process is coordinated by Wageningen University followed by publishing of the data via the AGI dashboard.

6. Engagement

The AGIs are designed to support deliberation about the ways in which the environmental performance of a country's aquaculture can be improved. The value of the AGIs lies in the conversation between those involved in, and concerned with the problems and possible solutions defined. The narrative based on the assessment, and the indication of gaps and actionable insights, help to have that conversation. This engagement is organized on multiple levels: one-on-one through our invitation to contact us; webinars and events; and targeted engagement workshops. 

Note on pilot phase of AGI assessments


The AGI assessments were piloted across nine countries. During this phase the methodology process was field tested and, via feedback from assessors, the AGI core team was able to learn about particular challenges related to conducting the assessment. For example, for certain countries, the assessment was done by one assessor and they were experts in the aquaculture industry of the respective country and less familiar with conducting interpretive (social science) research. In addition, both the number and type of interviewees (e.g. government, civil society, industry, etc.) varied across assessments. This was due to a variety of factors including access to key actors, time, and resources available. While these issues occurred in the minority, nevertheless, the pilot phase served as a learning opportunity leading the AGI core team to revise and update the methodology to ensure consistency across future assessments (reflected in the AGI handbook).