Aquaculture is a growing and high-value industry that depends on access to and wise use of shared inland, coastal and marine resources. Varied stakeholders and communities are very interested in these public resources, and there has been conflict about how the aquaculture industry uses them. Prior to the research discussed in this article, there have been few large-scale studies of community perceptions of aquaculture. Our research drew upon an extensive literature review, stakeholder interviews and a survey mailed to the public in two regional case studies in Australia: the Eyre Peninsula in the state of South Australia and Port Phillip Bay in the state of Victoria. The data revealed some public support for aquaculture's socioeconomic benefits and strong interest in minimizing the risk of its environmental impacts. There were mixed opinions about the trustworthiness of governments' aquaculture decisions and actions. Some industry sectors attracted greater trust and lower perceived environmental risks. The importance and credibility of different information sources varied. There was strong support for improved dialogue among governments, the aquaculture industry and communities. Key differences between the regions included levels of awareness of and knowledge about aquaculture. Our research is consistent with literature on risk communication and perception that suggests that conflict and subsequent costs to industry and the community can be overcome or mitigated if government and industry understand, acknowledge and respond to community perceptions of the industry.