The Need for Science in the Development of Ecological Aquaculture

Barry A. Costa-Pierce

Aquaculture has been said to be at the pre-ancestor stage of agriculture where most farmed species have only recently been domesticated, or, wild types are being used in farming. Aquaculture research is an ancient practice until very recently the field has advanced principally by aquafarmers conducting experiments on a trial and error basis.

Carp still dominate production. Of the approx. 30,000 fish species two-thirds marine) only a few are harvested for direct human consumption. Aquaculture science is still poorly developed (and funded). There are very few centers of excellence in aquaculture, and almost no ecological aquaculture experiment stations. Clearly, aquaculture is the “poor cousin” of agriculture and capture fisheries.

Most scientific inquiry in aquaculture is “discipline-oriented”, e.g. organized in a traditional, compartmentalized manner in major academic centers. Multidisciplinary aquaculture scientists — which David Orr (1999) has called “specialists in whole things” — are rare. To develop aquaculture more rapidly, aquaculture science needs to break through disciplinary bounds and tie together real-world knowledge and academic disciplines and create a new, knowledge-based infrastructure and support system for ecological aquaculture. Aquaculture needs a true interdisciplinary environmental scholarship to evolve — much like the field of oceanography. Lubchenco (1998) called for a “new social contract for science” which would “facilitate the investigation of complex, interdisciplinary problems that span multiple spatial and temporal scales; to encourage interagency and international cooperation on societal problems; and to construct more effective bridges between policy, management, and science, as well as between the public and private sectors. Most of our efforts to address economic and social problems are as yet devoid of ecological knowledge.”