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Aquaculture-environment interactions
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Aquaculture-environment interactions


Expert advice on interactions between aquaculture and the environment

The importance of the aquaculture industry as a supplier of food for human consumption is increasing with time - at a growth rate of circa 4% per year, it is the fastest growing food production sector worldwide. In part, this has resulted from the increased global demand for seafood products and the insufficient supply from natural fishery harvests which have reached the maximum yield. While around a third of the total global seafood products are derived from aquaculture, this is expected to exceed 50% by the year 2025, such that production from aquaculture will overtake that from wild fisheries as the major source of fish protein for humans.

Like any other economic activity, aquaculture interacts with the environment, with potential positive and negative environmental impacts. Waste generated by the activity may pollute the environment, while there are also other potential adverse environmental effects, such as those resulting from farmed species that escape and which can affect natural ecosystems. On the other hand, aquaculture provides an alternative product to the consumer without jeopardizing wild populations of overexploited and threatened fishery species, and may therefore indirectly help to sustain marine biodiversity. Furthermore, aquaculture installations may serve as a localised source of nutrients, thereby enhancing the productivity of an area, leading to increased harvests of wild populations, some of which may be harvested for economic gain or scientific research.

 

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To ensure sustainability of aquaculture, it is therefore crucial to gain an understanding of the interactions between the activity and the environment. To this effect, several international organisations, including FAO, GESAMP and IUCN, have brought together experts from the socio-economic, legal, management and scientific fields, to contribute to the development of guidelines for sustainable aquaculture by assessing aspects of site selection, environmental management, and ecological assessment and  monitoring. Examples of such guidelines can be downloaded from the FAO  and IUCN  web sites.

 



 


 

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Last Updated: 10 October 2016

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