Ecological aquaculture is the only way to save the world’s last and most spectacular terrestrial ecosystems from complete destruction by agriculture
Barry A. Costa-Pierce
By 2050 global food production will need to rise at least by 70% (FAO 1991, 2011) as the world’s population is expected to reach 9.6 to 12.3 billion (Gerland et al., 2014). There are severe resource constraints to expanding terrestrial food production. If humanity expands traditional and industrial terrestrial agricultue across the globe to feed this future population, the world will face a terrible conservation crisis. Less than 1% of human foods come from the ocean (Pimentel and Pimentel 1996; FAO 2011), making the growth of aquaculture a future imperative. The real debate over the future of aquaculture is not whether aquaculture will grow, but how it will grow. Innovative approaches are available that develop new, ocean food production systems that do not separate but combine capture fisheries and aquaculture production systems, and do not destroy or compromise the resilience of marine habitats and fisheries ecosystems. By developing — fully — cooperative research and team science — and using more fully the “aquaculture toolbox” we can not only produce adequate seafoods for future humanity but also support the restoration of capture fisheries while protecting and enhancing marine ecosystems, plus redevelop the world’s working waterfronts as premier examples of a 21st century “blue-green economy”. Ecological aquaculture and the ecosystems approach to aquaculture will enhance humanity’s responsibility to better steward ocean ecosystems while also feeding a future world with nutrient-dense foods essential for human health and wellness. Ecological aquaculture is a transdisciplinary area of scholarship and practice — a “pracademic” — that combines the social-ecological wisdom of aquafarming and fishing peoples with their science knowledge to provide additional economic, environmental, and social profits from seafoods. Ecological aquaculture is “team science” that develops social-ecological partnerships of scientists working with fishermen, farmers, and civil society who are central to the success of ecological aquaculture. Ecological aquaculture incorporates the knowledge — and power — of ecological design, ecological engineering, and ecological approaches to governance — to implement and then evolve — more sustainable aquaculture businesses and family farms at a bioregional scale. This “alternative path” of aquaculture is being used to evolve a whole new generation of aquaculture ecosystems that produce not only higher economic benefits, but also increased social contract for aquaculture due to the multiple benefits they provide not only to the economy, but also to ecosystems, and societies.