Aquaculture Doesn’t Take The Pressure Off Of Wild Fisheries – If Anything It Increases Our Desire For Seafood

Source: Hakai Magazine/Brian Owens

Photo: Alex Antoniadis/Unsplash

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Aquaculture is often promoted as a sustainable alternative to catching wild fish—a way to reduce pressure on overexploited stocks while providing affordable and necessary protein for people’s diets.

It’s an argument put forward by major international organizations like the World Bank and the intergovernmental Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development. But it’s an argument that doesn’t hold up, according to new research.

“Our findings suggest that aquaculture is just adding to seafood production, not having any conservation effect,” says Stefano Longo, a social scientist who studies the interactions between human and ecological systems at North Carolina State University.

Longo and his colleagues used statistical models to analyze global aquaculture production and wild fish harvests from 1970 to 2014. They compared the total weight of aquaculture production with the total weight of wild-caught fish per capita. They found that increases in aquaculture production did not result in fewer wild fish being caught, and may have contributed to an increased demand for seafood.

The effect is similar to how the introduction of energy-efficient LED light bulbs did not result in the expected reduction in total energy use—instead, people simply used more light bulbs, as they were cheaper to run.

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Photo: Alex Antoniadis/Unsplash

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