Sustainability is a growing priority for most seafood professionals, whether they are producers, regulators, buyers, or others in the seafood industry. With an increasing dependence on aquaculture to fill the growing demand for seafood, numerous questions have arisen regarding the environmental impact of these production systems. To chart a sustainable path forward, it is imperative that decision makers have a rigorous, yet efficient way to quantify and compare the environmental impacts of seafood products. Measuring the actual impacts of aquaculture has proven difficult, however. These challenges stem from a scarcity of data, inconsistent reporting, incomplete science, a wide range of environmental impacts across vastly different production regions, and an ever-evolving definition of sustainability.
The Global Aquaculture Performance Index (GAPI) is a new assessment tool that has been developed with this dilemma in mind. GAPI's main objective is to condense current scientific understanding and aquaculture data into a sound, yet simple score of the environmental performance of marine finfish aquaculture. In addition to providing a single measure of performance, GAPI empowers the seafood sector with a tool to compare environmental impacts quantitatively across marine finfish aquaculture, identify better performers, and highlight potential solutions. Through the development of this tool, GAPI has amassed what is arguably the most comprehensive set of data on the ecological impacts of global marine finfish aquaculture production.
One of the major advantages of GAPI is its ability to compare both normalised and cumulative performance. Normalised scores, which are the focus of the GAPI report, measure the intensity of environmental impacts per unit of production. These scores level the playing field among producers of all sizes, so that direct comparisons can be made across countries or species regardless of the scale of production. These scores can assist policy makers in developing regulations that can improve the performance of the industry relative to their peers. In contrast, cumulative scores, which look at the overall impact of aquaculture production, encourage policy makers to grapple with important questions of industry scale and carrying capacity in their region.
Developing a framework to measure the actual performance of marine finfish aquaculture production globally has been no small feat. We have spent more than two years refining the GAPI methodology, defining ecological indicators, and collecting and transforming environmental data. This effort has involved substantial input from over 30 experts, including biologists, statisticians, seafood buyers, and a number of individuals engaged in the assessment of seafood sustainability. In addition, the GAPI methodology has been submitted for publication in the peer-reviewed literature.