With the global wild fish supply stagnant and the human population increasing, new research shows that farmed fish and shellfish production will likely need to increase by 133 percent between 2010 and 2050 in order to meet projected fish demand worldwide. The study finds that although aquaculture’s environmental impacts are likely to rise as production grows, there are a variety of actions producers can take to minimize impacts and encourage sustainable growth of the aquaculture industry.
The findings are being unveiled by the World Resources Institute (WRI), WorldFish, the World Bank, INRA, and Kasetsart University in a new paper called Improving Productivity and Environmental Performance of Aquaculture.
“The world’s oceans and inland waters are largely fished to their limit, and the supply of wild-caught fish peaked in the 1990s,” said Richard Waite, an Associate at WRI and lead author of the report. “Aquaculture is growing quickly to meet world fish demand, and already produces nearly half of the fish we eat today. Because farmed fish convert feed to edible food efficiently, aquaculture could provide food and employment to millions more people than today, at relatively low environmental cost.”
Most forms of aquaculture require land, water, feed, and energy—inputs that are not only increasingly scarce, but that are also associated with environmental impacts, such as habitat loss, pollution, and greenhouse gas emissions. Some farmed fish, such as salmon, are also fed diets that contain processed wild fish, raising concerns that certain forms of aquaculture may actually increase pressure on marine ecosystems, rather than relieve it. The report features a “life cycle assessment” that examines how doubling aquaculture production by 2050 could change the sector’s environmental impacts.
The complete report can be found here.