Debating Offshore Aquaculture in the Context of a Growing Global Population

In 2014, the amount of fish consumed from aquaculture surpassed fish consumed from wild capture fisheries for the first time in history. This paradigm shift in global fish consumption has sparked increased dialog regarding the merits and repercussions of “ocean farming,” or mariculture, around the world. In a head-to-head style article for The Marine Biologist magazine, two competing perspectives are presented for offshore aquaculture. NCEAS Director Ben Halpern and postdoctoral researcher Halley Froehlich argue in favor of the case for offshore aquaculture, citing its efficiency and conservation potential.

“Aquaculture does not have to be ubiquitous, nor does it need to replace all wild-caught fisheries. However, it must be a major global priority for marine science, conservation, food provision and management in an ever-changing world.”

              -Ben Halpern, NCEAS Director

Dissenters against offshore aquaculture insist that the rapid expansion of mariculture in the past 40 years poses great environmental risks. Drawing a parallel to the externalities of terrestrial livestock production, they warn about the risk of pollution, disease, and habitat degradation.

Halpern and Froehlich, participating team members in the SNAPP Sustainable Aquaculture Working Group counter by pointing to a shifting perception of aquaculture as more people and governments start to see the potential of ocean farming as a sustainable food source and viable livelihood option. They highlight the comparative benefits of aquaculture as it relates to other protein-based food production. While aquaculture should not replace all wild-catch fisheries, it must remain an imperative for fisheries management into the future, not only for the sake of food provision in a growing population, but also for the success of marine conservation.


"Two Views on a Revolution in Aquaculture"
Douglas McCauley, Erin Dillon, Francis Joyce, Ashley Stroud, Benjamin S. Halpern, Halley E. Froehlich
The Marine Biologist, 2016.

Photo Credit: NOAA's National Ocean Service (CC BY 2.0)


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Posted on November 7, 2016