Professor Dave Little of the Institute of Aquaculture at the University of Stirling, one of the report's co-authors.
Professor Dave Little of the Institute of Aquaculture at the University of Stirling, one of the report's co-authors.Photo: University of Stirling.

Aquaculture needs better governance to be sustainable, say experts

New study by an international consortium of aquaculture experts argues that rapidly-expanding aquaculture industry needs joined-up thinking on sustainability and suggests five "priority areas" for good governance.

If aquaculture is to be sustainable, more effective governance is needed, according to a new study by a consortium of international aquaculture experts.

Aquaculture's rapid expansion across the globe in recent years means that globally it now produces around the same as wild-caught fisheries - FAO figures from 2020 indicate aquaculture accounted for 49% of the total fish and seafood produced worldwide in 2020.

However, with expansion comes the need for better knowledge and more effective governance to ensure the industry operates in a sustainable way, according to the authors of a newly-published research study, Aquaculture governance: five engagement arenas for sustainability transformation.

Current "fragmented" governance on aquaculture needs to make way for "joint decision-making", according to study

The report proposes 5 key focus areas to improve governance for aquaculture sustainability. First on the list is for governments to set sustainability goals for aquaculture to address big-ticket issues such as climate change, environmental performance, and food and livelihood security.

Currently, the authors note, most global aquaculture production has "suboptimal" social, economic and environmental conditions.

"For example, 66% of all aquaculture is produced under suboptimal national-level governance conditions, 76% of all aquaculture is produced in countries facing the highest climate risks, and 90% of global production is in countries scoring in the bottom half of the global rankings in environmental performance," the study notes.

Secondly, the authors argue that cross-sectoral links need to be recognised and accounted for in policy-making on sustainability, for example, the continued reliance of aquaculture producers on wild-caught fisheries for feed ingredients.

The third area identified by the researchers is "land-water-sea connectivity", including looking at how different actors work together to address challenges of biosecurity, transportation and climate change impacts on coastal regions.

The entire value chain, including processing, transport, trade and waste disposal impacts aquaculture sustainability, meaning "joint decision-making" needed, say authors. Pictured: processing of farmed trout.
The entire value chain, including processing, transport, trade and waste disposal impacts aquaculture sustainability, meaning "joint decision-making" needed, say authors. Pictured: processing of farmed trout.Photo: Adobe Stock.

Local knowledge can support innovation, while entire value chain impacts aquaculture sustainability

Fourth on the list of priority areas is "knowledge and innovation", with the report arguing that industry and governments need to look beyond solely technical solutions, to benefit from "more diverse types of knowledge". This could include local or indigenous knowledge, the authors suggest.

Finally, value chains are identified as the fifth area for consideration, with processing, transportation, trading, and post-consumption disposal all part of the bigger picture of aquaculture sustainability.

Ultimately, according to the University of Stirling's Institute for Aquaculture, these five areas "highlight the need to balance social, economic and environmental outcomes".

The study's findings show "how aquaculture is connected with other important food and economic sectors, suggesting the need for joint decision-making in the ministries, agencies and institutions responsible for agenda setting and resource allocation."

Good governance is critically important for ensuring that aquaculture does not cause more harm than benefits.
Professor Dave Little, Institute of Aquaculture, University of Stirling, who is one of the report's co-authors.

Rapid expansion of aquaculture means policy needs to play catch-up with industry

Stirling University-based Professor Dave Little of the Institute of Aquaculture was one of the co-authors of the research calling for better governance.

“Good governance is critically important for ensuring that aquaculture does not cause more harm than benefits. However, current knowledge and practices related to aquaculture governance currently lack a set of unifying topics and sustainability goals," he said, announcing the study.

“This is in part due to aquaculture’s rapid expansion and intensification over the last two decades, in part outpacing the ability of research and policy to catch up," Little explained.

"As state ministries worldwide now begin to think more concretely about governance issues in the sector, the five priority areas suggest in this recent research are essential for guiding unified economic, policy and environmental planning," he added.

Need to move from fragmented efforts on sustainability to interconnected approach

“Concerted governance efforts can help move the sector beyond fragmented technical questions associated with intensification and expansion, social and environmental impacts, and toward system-based approaches that address interconnected sustainability issues," Little said.

The research study, Aquaculture governance: five engagement arenas for sustainability transformation, was published in the journal Current Opinion in Environmental Sustainability. The consortium of authors included more than thirty aquaculture experts from around the world.

Related Stories

No stories found.
logo
WEAREAQUACULTURE
weareaquaculture.com