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National Center for Ecological Analysis and Synthesis

Project Description

Aquaculture currently represents 50% of all fisheries products for direct human consumption. This means that aquaculture production exceeds global beef production in terms of protein produced. Aquaculture will continue to be a major source of protein for global consumption, but how can the scientific community help to steer aquaculture towards more environmentally sustainable practices? This SNAP project will examine specific dimensions of the “aquaculture problem”, and synthesize its findings in a forward-looking prospectus for the emerging offshore open-ocean subsector (versus near-shore fish farming). The four scientific products of this working group will focus on: A review of the real and perceived risks of open-ocean aquaculture relative to the near shore approaches. The Working Group will review both grey literature and peer-reviewed articles, as well as interview industry representatives and ecologists who have expertise in geographies where aquaculture operations are either already well-established and/or are rapidly expanding. Drawing upon the array of concerns and impacts that have already been measured in a near shore context, the Working Group will disentangle actual offshore impacts, concerns, and possible improvements that will help clarify the potential of open-ocean aquaculture. An analysis of the economic and ecological opportunities for expanding open-ocean aquaculture with an emphasis on approaches that target the most favorable options for jointly meeting economic needs and ecological needs. The Working Group — which includes industry leaders, conservation scientists with expertise in ocean health, and NOAA experts who contributed to the National Strategic Plan for Federal Aquaculture — will identify and map areas with greatest opportunity (‘hot spots’) for “smart aquaculture” with high potential aquaculture productivity, and minimal conflict with biodiversity and critical ecosystem services. Equally as important is avoiding areas most at risk and/or least viable for open-ocean farming expansion. As such, the Working Group will also analyze areas that should be avoided given a series of important ecological, social, and economic considerations (‘cold spots’). Looking towards an expansion of sustainable open-ocean aquaculture requires a quantitative assessment of the needs and conflicts of fish production now and into the future. The Working Group will evaluate open-ocean aquaculture operations and production in 2015 and forecast the potential into the future by exploring and modeling trends in wild fish capture and consumption, climate variability, technological advances, and food security and safety. Critical to evaluating the prospects of open-ocean farming will be involving key stakeholders in the aquaculture industry throughout the process. This project is supported by the Science for Nature and People (SNAP) initiative, generously funded through founding grants by Shirley and Harry Hagey, Steve and Roberta Denning, Seth Neiman, the Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation, Ward W. and Priscilla B. Woods, and the David and Lucile Packard Foundation.
Working Group Participants

Principal Investigator(s)

Dietmar Grimm, Benjamin S. Halpern

Project Dates

Start: May 1, 2015

End: June 30, 2018



Ian Davies
University of California, Los Angeles
Halley Froehlich
University of California, Santa Barbara
Rebecca R. Gentry
University of California, Santa Barbara
Dietmar Grimm
The Nature Conservancy
Benjamin S. Halpern
University of California, Santa Barbara
Peter Kareiva
University of California, Los Angeles
Roz Naylor
Stanford University
Michael F. Parke
National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA)
Michael Rust
National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA)
Mike Velings
Aqua Spark
Cloudy Xu
University of California, Los Angeles
Kathleen Yap
University of California, Los Angeles


  1. Journal Article / 2019

    Interactions and management for the future of marine aquaculture and capture fisheries

  2. Journal Article / 2018

    Predator in the pool? A quantitative evaluation of non-indexed open access journals in aquaculture research

  3. Journal Article / 2019

    Governance of marine aquaculture: Pitfalls, potential, and pathways forward

  4. Presentations / 2016

    Aligning conservation and seafood production: potential and barriers of offshore aquaculture expansion

  5. Presentations / 2016

    Potential barriers of offshore aquaculture

  6. Journal Article / 2016

    Synthesis and comparative analysis of physiological tolerance and life-history growth traits of marine aquaculture species

  7. Journal Article / 2017

    Conservation aquaculture: Shifting the narrative and paradigm of aquaculture's role in resource management

  8. Journal Article / 2017

    Offshore aquaculture: I know it when I see it

  9. Data Set / 2017

    Public perceptions of aquaculture: Evaluating spatiotemporal patterns of sentiment around the world

  10. Journal Article / 2017

    Public perceptions of aquaculture: Evaluating spatiotemporal patterns of sentiment around the world

  11. Journal Article / 2018

    Avoiding the ecological limits of forage fish for fed aquaculture

  12. Journal Article / 2018

    Comparative terrestrial feed and land use of an aquaculture-dominant world

  13. Journal Article / 2018

    Global change in marine aquaculture production potential under climate change

  14. Journal Article / 2017

    Mapping the global potential for marine aquaculture

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