Governance of marine aquaculture: Pitfalls, potential, and pathways forward
Marine aquaculture is a rapidly growing industry that presents both opportunities and risks for the environment and society. Whether aquatic farming (bivalves and finfish) in the ocean can mitigate food security concerns and be done without significant ecological impact depends in large part on the governance infrastructure of the sector. This study assesses the relationships at the nation-state level between existing aquaculture policy determined by survey and literature review, indicators of the quality of governance, and assessments of the ecological potential for highly productive aquaculture. The possible socio-ecological implications of Blue Growth for nations around the world are then discussed. There are numerous unexploited opportunities for countries, like those in the Pacific and Caribbean, with good governance and growth potential to pursue marine aquaculture, particularly to potentially alleviate local food security concerns. In comparison, countries already producing marine aquaculture do not have the most biologically suitable waters (e.g., China), but are more closely aligned with private capital – showing production is clearly possible, but may be less sustainable or optimal. Notably, many countries active in the marine aquaculture space appear to have some level of associated regulation and environmental oversight, but appear to lack clear frameworks for emerging growth in the sector, particularly offshore production. This study provides one of the first global evaluations of sustainable aquaculture potential under current governance, policy, and capital patterns.