March 19, 2007
With growing global populations and ever-increasing demands for seafood, fish farms are expected to expand significantly over the next few decades. But is aquaculture economically sustainable? Do the benefits outweigh the costs when all of the relevant environmental factors are considered? A team of social scientists from WHOI’s Marine Policy Center produced an analysis of the economics of marine aquaculture in the U.S., identifying major challenges on the path to large-scale aquaculture such as: disease transmission from farmed fish to wild stocks; the effects of interbreeding in farmed fish and of escapes into the wild population; and the availability of forage fish stocks for feeding carnivorous finfish in farms. The team also discusses some of the significant conceptual issues that arise when attempting to characterize the “economic sustainability” of a specific activity like marine aquaculture in a single country.