A Global Analysis of Mariculture Production

Aquaculture is the world's fastest-growing source of seafood, and it is increasingly focused on higher-value predatory and omnivorous fish. These and other trends are analyzed in a new paper by the Sea Around Us Project at the University of British Columbia.

The study focuses on aquaculture that takes place in marine or brackish water, known as mariculture, which accounts for 38 percent of global aquaculture production. The researchers gathered geographically detailed data from governments, academic sources, and other specialized literature to compile a Global Mariculture Database (GMD). They compared the GMD to the U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization's (FAO) Global Aquaculture Production database. The study is available online and is to be published in the May 2013 issue of the journal Marine Policy.

In addition, the full GMD is available at www.SeaAroundUs.org.

Among the researchers' findings:

  • The GMD shows a dramatic increase in global mariculture production since 1950 (see first figure).
  • The FAO database appears generally reliable for global mariculture production. 
  • The authors found it difficult to obtain reliable mariculture production data from China. FAO statistics suggest that China accounts for about two-thirds of global aquaculture production, so uncertainty in data from China would mean significant uncertainty in any global mariculture production estimates.
  • Both GMD and FAO data confirm that production of predatory and omnivorous fish makes up an increasing share of mariculture production (see second figure). Such production relies heavily on wild-caught fish as feed, which increases the impact on the marine environment.

A Global Analysis of Mariculture Production Charts