Mariculture: A global analysis of production trends and spatial distribution since 1950
Aquaculture is one of the fastest growing global food animal production industries and, according to the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), now accounts for nearly half of global food fish supply. This proportion is anticipated to grow in the coming decades as global capture fisheries continue to stagnate and global demand for seafood continues to rise. As the significance of aquaculture grows, the marine and brackish (‘mariculture’) subsector is of particular interest for analysis because of its growing influence on the development of global aquaculture and its known negative impacts on marine biodiversity and coastal health. In this context, and based on known global data limitations and past experience with fisheries and aquaculture statistics reported to the FAO, there is reason to independently verify the FAO's global database of mariculture production statistics. These data were therefore re-estimated and global mariculture production from 1950 to 2010 was GIS-mapped at a higher spatial resolution than available thus far. This new database indicates that, unlike for capture fisheries, the current understanding of historical global mariculture trends is reasonably accurate; however, some uncertainty remains in the accuracy of reported mariculture production statistics at the country level, most notably in China. Thus, mariculture statistics should still be used with caution. Finally, the new database independently confirms global ‘farming up the foodweb’, and briefly evaluates whether it is really the case that nearly half of all ‘fish’ consumed nowadays originate from aquaculture.