Comprehensive Planning for Sustainable Fisheries Must Include Aquaculture

Barry A. Costa-Pierce

Substantial price and volume competition occur between fisheries and aquaculture products in the modern marketplace. While there are vital connections between capture fisheries and aquaculture in the ecological, fisheries management, seafood market and social dimensions, planning for aquaculture is not routinely incorporated into the overall planning framework for sustainable fisheries and coastal zone management The concept of pristine, wild fisheries and untouched habitats is at odds with the modern management reality, and the important contributions and impacts of aquaculture. Modern lobster fisheries in New England are more akin to extensive aquaculture operations but are managed using traditional stock assessments that do not explain modern production dynamics. Although aquaculture expands the production of commercially valuable species, it depends upon intact natural ecosystems and ecosystem services. There have been questions whether aquaculture contributes to the depletion of world fisheries. This “aquaculture paradox” recognizes the dependence of both wild and farmed fish stocks on many of the same marine and agricultural resources — from food to habitats. Although capture fisheries and aquaculture operations are researched, planned and managed as if they were independent entities, they both share common concerns about water quality, genetic diversity in hatchery-raised organisms, feeds and the sustainability of fish meal/oil fisheries and industries. Fisheries science needs to incorporate aquaculture into the longer-term outlook for managing the fisheries of the future. In the USA, the Magnuson-Stevens Fishery Conservation and Management Act and the Coastal Zone Management Act offer little guidance concerning aquaculture development. Analyses of the trends in species having aquaculture and capture fisheries components are required along with in-depth examinations of functional interdependencies. A more comprehensive planning framework and a retooling of management and academic structure are required. Guidelines for incorporating aquaculture into the planning for sustainable fisheries and coastal zone management are needed in order to recognize the vital contribution of culture fisheries (aquaculture) and enhanced fisheries (ranching) to global fisheries production, and to enhance aquaculture’s efficiency in order to protect ecosystems and ecosystem services and to evolve both sustainable capture fisheries and aquaculture.