The recent Marine Stewardship Council certification for the Russian Barents Red King Crab demonstrates the consequences of overlooking ecological factors in seafood sustainability assessments. The crab is commercially valuable but has uncertain invasive effects for the ecosystem. Russian authorities manage it as a long-term fishery and openly accept the co-incidental risks that come along with the invasion. The Russian crab fishery is monopolized and there is limited transparency on both quota acquisition and decision-making regarding its management. Including ecological and socio-political dimensions expands the sustainability definition to more closely match general consumer perceptions of what certified sustainability represents. The focus of widely trusted certification processes on fishery practices masks important sustainability considerations from end consumers and may distort their choices.
Aquaculture, Seafood, and Food Security
Offshore mariculture could enable increased seafood production and economic development while alleviating pressure on coastal ecosystems and wild fisheries. In the Caribbean, however, an integrated assessment of the ecological and economic potential for mariculture in the region is lacking. We assess site suitability and develop a spatial bioeconomic model to predict yields and profits for offshore cobia (Rachycentron canadum) mariculture across 30 jurisdictions in the Caribbean. We find that (1) approximately 1.4% of the study area may be technically feasible; (2) the model could avoid conflicts with other uses and sensitive habitats and protected areas; and (3) the model could be economically profitable, with the potential to produce almost half the amount of seafood that is currently harvested from wild fisheries globally. Here, we show that potential farm-scale production and profitability vary across and within countries and that accounting for the foreign investment risk associated with a country will impact estimated farm profitability.
Recent years have witnessed growing interest in applying ecosystem service (ES) frameworks to promote holistic decision-making and develop sustainable aquaculture. The goal of this review was to analyze the status quo of research on aquaculture ES and identify knowledge gaps and research priorities to better align ES with holistic decision-making. This study conducted a systematic review of the academic literature and analyzed the coverage of aquaculture ES across 94 publications. The research field has evolved substantially in the last ten years, reaching a multidisciplinary audience around the world. While research coverage included all major production environments (coastal marine, brackishwater, and freshwater) and cultured species groups (finfish, bivalves, crustaceans, and seaweeds), emphasis is currently limited towards certain types of aquaculture and study areas (namely, brackishwater shrimp farming). This review found a flexible but inconsistent application of ES concepts and methods to support multiple decision-contexts including policy, development, and conservation. This paper proposes a research agenda to address research gaps, adopt more holistic ES-driven research, and apply consistent and comparable ES measures through an aquaculture lens. Ultimately, this should be supported by a shift in thinking that frames aquaculture as ‘aqua-ecosystems’, recognizing aquaculture as fundamentally embedded within linked social and ecological systems.
Ocean acidification (OA) is one of the largest emerging and significant environmental threats for the aquaculture industry, jeopardizing its role as an alternative for supporting food security. Moreover, market conditions, characterized by price volatility and low value-added products, could exacerbate the industry's vulnerability to OA. We use a literature review on the biological consequences of OA over marine commercial species attributes to inform the empirical assessment of consumers' preferences for those attributes affected by OA, and consumers' responses to a set of market adaptation strategies suggested by the industry. We found that OA will have a negative impact on consumers' welfare due to the effects on commercial attributes of mussels aquaculture products. However, the main concerns for the industry are the market conditions. Thus, the industry's current adaptation strategies are focused on increasing their market share by offering new product assortments (with more value-added), regardless of the effect of OA on consumers' welfare. Despite this fact, the industry's strategies could eventually contribute to cope with OA since some specific segments of the market are willing to pay for new product assortments. This new market composition highlights the role of public institutions' reputation in issues related to food safety.
Wild populations of seahorses are threatened by overexploitation and the increasing black market to supply the trade of dried specimens for traditional Chinese medicine, religious rituals and other uses. Intensive aquaculture systems, available for seahorses, are developed for producing high-value specimens for marine aquariums, and thus, are not suitable to solve the real threat facing their conservation, which is the market of dried seahorses. Therefore, our aim was to describe opportunities and constraints to develop low-cost aquaculture of seahorses in cages in mangrove estuaries to foster a legal and more sustainable production chain. A comprehensive review in literature was performed followed by trials throughout one year in a sub-tropical mangrove estuary to observe the strengths and weakness of low-cost systems set up in mangroves. In these systems, seahorses should grow-out relying only on wild plankton and periphyton available in the estuary. We discuss that the production of seahorses in mangrove areas has many opportunities to increase environmental and social sustainability. Nonetheless, we also addressed the main constraints of this production that should be overcome to establish a reliable culture protocol, including the environmental instability of estuaries, net obstruction, predators and escapees.
As the world's population continues to grow, the way in which ocean industries interact with ecosystems will be key to supporting the longevity of food and social securities. Aquaculture is crucial to the future supply of seafood, but challenges associated with negative impacts could impede increased production, especially production that is efficient and safe for the environment. Using the typology established by The Economics of Ecosystems and Biodiversity Initiative, we describe how marine aquaculture could be influential in supporting ecosystem services beyond solely the production of goods, through provisioning services, regulating services, habitat or supporting services, and cultural services. The provision of these services will vary, depending on functional traits of culture species, biotic and abiotic characteristics of the surrounding environment, farm design, and operational standards. Increasing recognition, understanding, and accounting of ecosystem service provision by mariculture through innovative policies, financing, and certification schemes may incentivize active delivery of benefits and may enable effects at a greater scale
The general purpose of assessment is to provide decision-makers with the best valuable data, information, and predictions with which management decisions will be supported. Using case studies taken from four scientific projects and dealing with the management of marine bivalve resources, lessons learned allowed identifying some issues regarding assessment approaches. The selected projects also introduced methodological or institutional frameworks: ecosystem approach to aquaculture (EAA), system approach framework (SAF), marine spatial planning (MSP), and valuation of ecosystem services (ES).
The study on ecosystem services linked ES to marine habitats and identified ES availability and vulnerability to pressures. The results were displayed as maps of resulting potential services with qualitative metrics. The vulnerability value is an alternative to monetary valuation and, in addition to identifying the most suitable areas for each type of ES, this metric allows identifying the management strategies that will most probably maintain or affect each individual ES.
The MSP example focused on bivalve farming activity and accounted for several criteria: habitat suitability, growth performance, environmental and regulation constraints and presence of other activities. The ultimate endpoint of such an approach is a map with qualitative values stating whether a location is suitable or not, depending on the weight given to each criterion.
In the EAA case study, the indicator was defined by the growth performance of cultivated bivalves in different locations. This indicator is affected by distant factors – e.g. populations of marine organisms competing for the same food resource, nutrient inputs from rivers, time to renew water bodies under the action of tidal currents. The role and interactions of these factors were assessed with a dynamical ecosystem model.
Examples illustrate that the assessment is often multi-dimensional, and that multiple variables would interact and affect the response to management options. Therefore, the existence of trade-offs, the definition of the appropriate spatial scale and resolution, the temporal dynamics and the distant effects of factors are keys to a policy-relevant assessment. EA and SAF examples show the interest of developing models relating response to input variables and testing scenarios. Dynamic models would be preferred when the relationship between input and output variables may be masked by non-linear effects, delay of responses or differences of scales.
When decision-making requires economic methods, monetary values are often of poor significance, especially for those ecosystem services whose loss could mean the end of life, and appear to be a comfortable oversimplification of reality of socio-ecological systems which cannot be summarized in single numbers. Alternative methods, such as the ones proposed in the SAF and ES examples, would preferably consider institutional analysis or multicriteria assessment rather than single monetary values.
Case studies also highlighted that credibility of assessment tools benefit from the association of stakeholders at different stages, among which: identification of the most critical policy issues; definition of system characteristics including ecological, economical and regulation dimensions; definition of modelling scenarios to sort out the most effective management options; assessment of models and indicators outputs.
Although aquaculture sometimes lessens the negative effects of fishing by lowering the need to capture wild animals and plants, some aquaculture practices still require the exploitation of wild populations. A largely overlooked case is the use of wild populations to provide seed to sea farms. Mussel farming in Northwest Spain involve the capture of thousands of tons of young mussels (0.5–2 cm long) from the nearby rocky intertidal every year to supply floating rafts. Despite its volume, the impact of this activity on other sessile organisms remains unassessed. To fill this gap in our knowledge, we monthly monitored the sessile intertidal assemblage of five protected and six exploited sites during the closed season in 2016 following a nested sampling plan. Like the by-catch typical of other fisheries, harvesting young mussels for aquaculture was detrimental to the abundance and diversity of the associated sessile assemblage not directly targeted by this activity. Coverage and richness were also significantly lowered by the exploitation of mussel seed, and the community structure of protected and exploited sites was significantly different. These differences continued until the next open season, suggesting that the closed season was too short for the recovery of the associated non-target sessile assemblage. Given the size of the local mussel industry, the incomplete recovery along the closed season implies that mussel aquaculture must be putting a sustained pressure on a sizeable portion of the rocky intertidal of Northwest Spain.
The worlds’ oceans and seas have tremendous potential to contribute to the provision of food, feed, energy and natural resources. The emerging concepts of “Blue Growth” and “Blue Economy” have put the development of new marine industries on the political agenda. As marine industries expand, spatial interconnections and industry boundaries are being drawn and the potential for the combined use of marine space is being explored. The aim of this paper is to provide a single source document that summarizes the probable boundaries of marine growth industries, namely aquaculture; offshore wind energy with fixed foundations; floating offshore wind energy; tidal and wave energy; marine biotechnology, seabed mining; and tourism and recreation, based on depth and distance from the shore. This is an important first step in developing a single source document for marine industry boundaries that will help marine spatial planners and researchers develop innovative industry combinations to foster growth in the marine sector. This paper explores marine industry overlaps in four basins: European Atlantic, Baltic/North Sea, Mediterranean/Black Sea and the Caribbean/ Gulf of Mexico. By describing the geographical characteristics of different sea basins, this paper helps to focus marine governance strategies for stimulating combinations of marine industries towards the most promising areas. The methodology developed in this paper was also used to generate 72 country-specific maps and corresponding tables to support marine spatial planning processes at a national level.
This study explores the value chain structure and chain activities of the imported shellfish industry in China. Data were collected from face-to-face semi-structured interviews in Guangzhou (n = 30) and Shanghai (n = 23) and a face-to-face survey in Shanghai (n = 71). Data analysis employed both content and descriptive analyses. Results show that the value chain is composed of several important members including foreign exporters, Chinese importers, wholesalers, resellers and clearance companies. Business partnership is the main channel by which marketing information is gained by chain members. Relationships are quite stable among the chain members, with quality, price and credit items being the most important factors that influence chain relationships. It seems that imported shellfish from some developed countries (e.g. Canadian and U.S. lobsters) have reached a market saturation in China's first-tier cities (e.g. Guangzhou and Shanghai) and relevant chain members face fierce competition. E-commerce is still not mature enough as a tool for the marketing development of imported shellfish in China.