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Sustainable Ecological Aquaculture Systems: The Need for a New Social Contract for Aquaculture Development

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Ecohistories of aquaculture suggest that aquaculture is a natural part of human development throughout history and that modern, industrial aquaculture could strengthen its social and ecological roots by articulating its evolution along a sustainability trajectory and by adopting fully the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) ecosystems approach to aquaculture (EAA; Soto et al., 2008). The EAA creates a new code for global aquaculture development, combining into one common framework the two most important social‐ecological trajectories for global aquaculture—aquaculture for the world’s rich and aquaculture for the world’s poor. Knowledge of the rich archeology and anthropology of aquaculture connects this FAO code to antiquity, creating a single development pathway for aquaculture throughout human history. Without widespread adoption of an EAA, FAO (2009) projections of aquaculture development over the next 30 years may provide a far too optimistic scenario for its global growth. In this regard, aquaculture over the last 20 years has been criticized as lacking adequate attention and investment in developing grassroots, democratic, extension processes to engage a broader group of stakeholders to evolve the “blue revolution.” As an example, there has been a failure of fisheries and aquaculture to plan together to ensure sustainable supplies of seafood—the world’s most valuable proteins for human health—for seafood-eating peoples. Nonfed aquaculture (seaweeds, shellfish) has received worldwide attention for its rapid movement toward greater sustainability, which has led to more widespread social acceptance. For fed aquaculture, recent trends analyses have suggested that aquaculture is turning from the ocean to land-based agriculture to provide its protein feeds and oils. As such, more sophisticated, ecologically planned and designed “aquaculture ecosystems” will become more widespread because they better fit the social‐ecological context of both rich and poor countries. Ecological aquaculture provides the basis for developing a new social contract for aquaculture that is inclusive of all stakeholders and decision makers in fisheries, agriculture, and ecosystems conservation and restoration.

Document Type: Research Article


Publication date: May 1, 2010

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  • The Marine Technology Society Journal is the flagship publication of the Marine Technology Society. It publishes the highest caliber, peer-reviewed papers on subjects of interest to the society: marine technology, ocean science, marine policy and education. The Journal is dedicated to publishing timely special issues on emerging ocean community concerns while also showcasing general interest and student-authored works.
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