Different stakeholders have different definitions of sustainability, or sustainable development. The definitions reported by some of the most authoritative organizations are reported below.
The Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) defines sustainable development as "the management and conservation of the natural resource base, and the orientation of technological and institutional change in such a manner as to ensure the attainment and continued satisfaction of human needs for present and future generations. Such sustainable development (in the agriculture, forestry, and fisheries sectors) conserves land, water, plant and animal genetic resources, is environmentally non-degrading, technologically appropriate, economically viable and socially acceptable".
More specifically, FAO defines sustainable agriculture and rural development as processes that meet the following criteria:
FAO also defines a sustainable livelihood as a livelihood that can cope with, and recover from, stresses and shocks and maintain or enhance its capabilities and assets both now and in the future, whilst not undermining the natural resource base.
The United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) defines sustainable development as development that ensures that the use of resources and the environment today does not compromise their use in the future.
Sustainable development, or sustainability, is defined by the World Wildlife Fund for Nature (WWF) as an economic activity that meets the needs of the present generation without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their needs. Sustainability is based upon three components: economic growth, social progress and environmental protection.
The World Summit for Sustainable Development (WSSD) held in Johannesburg in 2002 states that sustainable development is built on three interdependent and mutually re-enforcing pillars economic development, social development and environmental protection that must be established at local, national, regional and global levels. This establishes linkages among poverty alleviation, human rights, biodiversity, clean water and sanitation, renewable energy and the sustainable use of natural resources.
The aforesaid definitions share some key concepts such as the long-term environmental, social and economic viability of activities and their ability to deliver quantity and quality outputs now and for generations to come.
Applied to the aquaculture sector this means long-term production of safe aquaculture products with respect to natural resources and in such a way as to deliver socio-economic development not only for local fishery communities, but also for other resource users and globally.