Seafood from aquaculture can play a particularly important role for the future food portfolio but feed resources, technology and economics will influence the expansion. Photo: R. Lilleholt/Nofima

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The big blue

Feed resources is the big challenge for expansion of marine aquaculture - not lack of suitable ocean space


In a study published in Nature Ecology & Evolution on the potential for future marine aquaculture development, centre researchers Max Troell, Malin Jonell and Patrik Henriksson comment on research findings suggesting that only a small fraction of the world’s ocean space would be sufficient for meeting growing future seafood demand through marine aquaculture (mariculture).

Referring to a study by Rebecca Gentry and colleagues, published in the same volume, Troell, Jonell and Henriksson acknowledge that Gentry’s modelling work is comprehensive and indicative of what species that are possible to farm and where in coastal off-shore waters, also considering competition with maritime activities like oil and shipping industries, and marine protected areas. However, they argue that the limited aquaculture production we see today in such waters is not due to space limitation but by other factors such as feed resources, technology and economics.

Big incentive for expansion

“The ‘ocean window’ for aquaculture is large, but it depends on these and other factors,” Troell explains. “The speed of climate change will have consequences for marine aquaculture but we still do not yet understand to what extent."

In fact, the incentive for expanding food production into the oceans is big considering the many challenges facing food production on land, Troell and his colleagues argue. However, it is important to acknowledge that aquaculture production through resource needs is connected to both aquatic and terrestrial ecosystems.

“The big challenges facing the expansion of the aquaculture sector lie in the development of sustainable feeds, and in better understanding how large-scale ocean farming systems interact with ecosystems and human well-being” says co-author Malin Jonell.

“Seafood can play a particularly important role for the future food portfolio, not only because its health benefits but also because many aquaculture species and systems can generate smaller environmental footprint compared to many animal farms on land” adds Patrik Henriksson.

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Published: 2017-08-21

Related info

Troell, M., M. Jonell and P. Henriksson. 2017. Ocean space for seafood. Nature Ecology and Evolution. DOI: 10.1038/s41559-017-0304-6

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Max Troell is a system ecologist mainly working with environmental problems associated with aquaculture. This work focuses on inter-linkages between aquaculture and fisheries, on different spatial scales.

Malin Jonell’s work focuses on food sustainability metrics and measures to improve the growing seafood sector.

Patrik Henriksson is a postdoctoral researcher at the Beijer Intistitute of Ecological Economics and Stockholm Resilience Centre. His main research interests are related to identifying and promoting more sustainable aquaculture practices.