GSA - Guidelines for Sustainable Aquaculture

Background and context

The increasing importance of aquaculture for food security and nutrition, improved livelihoods, poverty alleviation, income generation, as well as job creation and trade, and its potential to meet the growing global demand for fish was highlighted by the FAO Committee on Fisheries (COFI) during its last session. The growing need for implementation of best practices in aquaculture in many countries and regions was also noted. COFI therefore recommended that FAO develop global guidelines for sustainable aquaculture development.

In addition, the Sub-Committee on Aquaculture of COFI during its ninth session called for identifying the existing strategies and experiences of aquaculture developments worldwide in order to identify lessons learned that could be included in the new guidance with the objective to help the countries achieve a better implementation of the Code of Conduct for Responsible Fisheries (CCRF), while engaging and enabling their aquaculture sector to effectively participate in the implementation of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. 

Scope of the GSA

The Guidelines for Sustainable Aquaculture (GSA) will provide practical guidance to government authorities and policymakers in their efforts of: 

  • promoting the implementation of CCRF, and
  • engaging and enabling aquaculture to effectively participate in the implementation of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. 

More specifically, it will help FAO Members use the existing and upcoming FAO guidelines to develop their sustainable aquaculture by advancing their capacity development in this area. For this, the GSA will build on the lessons learned from a series of successful and unsuccessful aquaculture case studies.


It was suggested that the content of the GSA include three components: 

  • Component 1: Pathways towards successful implementation of sustainable aquaculture in different regional contexts, based on case studies of accomplishments in similar settings or regions;
  • Component 2: A series of practical thematic modules describing the rationale and attributes for approaches and practices on each specific topic, the existing guidelines and the key recommendations for successful implementation and capacity development, based on the achievements and difficulties highlighted by case studies;
  • Component 3: A series of case studies describing the process, the accomplishment and the constraints, to illustrate the possible pathways and thematic factsheets.

 The thematic modules will focus mainly on: 

  • Governance, sector and value-chain performance;
  • Specific capacity of the State on monitoring the sustainable development of the sector;
  • Integration, synergies and trade-offs between aquaculture, surrounding ecosystems and other stakeholders;
  • Data and statistics;
  • Communication and knowledge exchange and resource sharing.

The thematic modules of the GSA will need to cover both the aquaculture farms and their wider environments (i.e. at the sector, value-chain, landscape, territory, country, region levels etc.). At the farm level, the thematic modules will focus on business management, site selection, risk assessment and mitigation measures, system construction, engineering or rehabilitation, environmental impact management, farm operation, biosecurity and aquatic health management, market access, food safety and quality management, animal well-being, decent and safe work and special business operations (aquaculture-based fisheries; capture-based aquaculture; offshore and high-seas aquaculture etc.).