Population growth and climate change are going to stress the global food production system in the course of the 21st century. Constraints on fresh water supply and arable land, concern over carbon emissions associated with protein production, and human health considerations are likely to favor increased protein production from the oceans. Better management of wild fish stocks is mainly a question of political will and economics; but even if we get that right, wild stocks will not provide the additional seafood supply that will be needed as world population approaches 9 billion. That can only come from aquaculture. Developed and developing countries alike will have to consider how they will ensure seafood supply in light of these factors.
In developed countries, such as the United States, increasing marine aquaculture production is mainly a question of resolving use conflicts in the coastal zone and technology/economics further offshore. Developing countries face important choices in the aquaculture development path they pursue, as large-scale aquaculture operations build with foreign investment and focused on export markets have very different consequences for domestic economic development and protein supply than small-scale projects focused on native species and domestic markets.
The global potential for increased protein production from marine aquaculture in particular is immense. Appropriate forms of marine aquaculture can generate healthy forms of protein (and income) with lower carbon and ecological footprint than many land-based alternatives. It will be important to provide objective and science-based guidance to governments of developing countries seeking to increase seafood protein supply in ways that conserve and sustain marine environmental resources and ecosystems.
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