Where in the World Can Aquaculture Deliver for People and Planet?
The Nature Conservancy and NOAA scientists publish first-ever global guidance on top locations for sustainable shellfish and seaweed farming
The Nature Conservancy 08/2020
As the world faces increasing pressures to conserve vulnerable ocean environments, while also meeting a growing demand for protein, a new study has identified the parts of the globe with the strongest potential for development of commercial shellfish and seaweed aquaculture.
Regions highlighted for particular potential include Europe’s North Sea, the East China Sea, and the Southern California Bight, while some of the highest opportunity regions for shellfish aquaculture development centered in Europe, Oceania, and North America. At the same time, the best bets for seaweed aquaculture put pins on the map in Europe, Asia, Oceania, and South America.
- The opportunity for restorative aquaculture is truly global – there are marine ecoregions within all inhabited continents that have significant potential for shellfish and seaweed aquaculture to provide benefits to ecosystems and people.
- The top 10 highest opportunity regions for shellfish aquaculture development centered in Europe, Oceania, and North America, while the highest for seaweed aquaculture centered in Europe, Asia, Oceania, and South America.
- Europe’s North Sea marine ecoregion was consistently identified as the highest opportunity marine ecoregion for restorative shellfish and seaweed aquaculture development. The region’s coastal waters suffer some of the world’s most substantial nutrient pollution, widescale loss of shellfish reefs, and receives significant fishing pressure; commercial seaweed and shellfish farming could help to address some of these ecological challenges.
- Some identified high opportunity marine ecoregions, such as the East China Sea, already have robust shellfish and seaweed aquaculture industries. In such cases, the authors suggest reform or modifications in aquaculture practices could improve or optimize ecological benefits of farms.
- Other high opportunity regions, such as the Southern California Bight, have limited or virtually no existing bivalve and seaweed aquaculture operations and could environmentally and economically benefit from their development. And others, like Northeastern New Zealand, have an active shellfish aquaculture industry, but do not have an established seaweed aquaculture industry, which could help provide additional ecological function.
- Where funds to support traditional coastal ecosystem restoration efforts are limited—particularly within low or lower-middle income nations—development of shellfish and seaweed aquaculture sectors could present a significant opportunity to aid coastal ecosystem recovery efforts and economic development.
Theuerkauf, S. J., Morris, Jr., J. A., Waters, T. J., Wickliffe, L. C., Alleway, H. C., Jones, R. C. (2019) A global spatial analysis reveals where marine aquaculture can benefit nature and people. PLOS ONE. https://journals.plos.org/plosone/article?id=10.1371/journal.pone.0222282