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What’s holding back marine aquaculture? (It’s not what you think)

There’s plenty of environmentally suitable areas around the world for marine aquaculture but factors other than space availability could limit its development, a study suggests.

The study, Global estimation of areas with suitable environmental conditions for mariculture species, defined “suitable areas” as those that can support the physiological needs of farmed species for sustainable mariculture production.

The study estimates that 72,000,000 km2 of ocean would be environmentally suitable to farm one or more species. About 92 percent of the predicted area or 66,000,000 km2 is environmentally suitable for farming finfish, 43 percent or 31,000,000 km2 for molluscs and 54 percent or 39,000,000 km2 for crustaceans.

The University of British Columbia study team, led by Muhammed A. Oyinlola, suggests that suitable mariculture areas along the Atlantic coast of South America and West Africa appear to be most under-utilized for farming.

“Our results suggest that factors other than environmental considerations are currently limiting the potential for mariculture expansion in many areas,” says the study.

The limiting factors include: the socio-economics of producing countries, including capacity and political instability; technology, its availability and cost effectiveness; trades; aqua feed availability; aquaculture development-related policies and competition for space within countries’ exclusive economic zones (EEZs), for instance — shipping, oil and gas, as well as tourism — all play major roles in the development of mariculture operations and their future expansion.

The results reflect those of an earlier study, Mapping the global potential for marine aquaculture, conducted by UC Santa Barbara researcher Rebecca Gentry, et al.