Report Presents New Findings and Recommendations for Sustainable Aquaculture

WASHINGTON (June 5, 2014)—With the global wild fish supply stagnant and the human population increasing, new research shows that farmed fish and shellfish production will likely need to increase by 133 percent between 2010 and 2050 in order to meet projected fish demand worldwide. The study finds that although aquaculture’s environmental impacts are likely to rise as production grows, there are a variety of actions producers can take to minimize impacts and encourage sustainable growth of the aquaculture industry.

The findings are being unveiled by the World Resources Institute (WRI), WorldFish, the World Bank, INRA, and Kasetsart University in a new paper called Improving Productivity and Environmental Performance of Aquaculture. This paper is the latest installment of the 2013–2014 World Resources Report: Creating a Sustainable Food Future. The series profiles a menu of solutions to help feed more than 9 billion people by 2050 in a manner that advances economic development and reduces pressure on the environment.

“The world’s oceans and inland waters are largely fished to their limit, and the supply of wild-caught fish peaked in the 1990s,” said Richard Waite, an Associate at WRI and lead author of the report.

“Aquaculture is growing quickly to meet world fish demand, and already produces nearly half of the fish we eat today. Because farmed fish convert feed to edible food efficiently, aquaculture could provide food and employment to millions more people than today, at relatively low environmental cost.”

Most forms of aquaculture require land, water, feed, and energy—inputs that are not only increasingly scarce, but that are also associated with environmental impacts, such as habitat loss, pollution, and greenhouse gas emissions. Some farmed fish, such as salmon, are also fed diets that contain processed wild fish, raising concerns that certain forms of aquaculture may actually increase pressure on marine ecosystems, rather than relieve it. The report features a “life cycle assessment” that examines how doubling aquaculture production by 2050 could change the sector’s environmental impacts.

“Increased production from aquaculture will be essential in meeting the world’s food security and nutrition needs,” said Michael Phillips, Director of Aquaculture and Genetic Improvement at WorldFish.

“Fish contribute one-sixth of the animal protein people consume, and also contain important micronutrients and omega-3 fatty acids that are often deficient in the diets of the poor. But as with all agricultural production, aquaculture production has environmental impacts. Our future scenario analysis suggests that there are things we can do to reduce aquaculture’s environmental impact while increasing production. If we take action on multiple fronts, we can get aquaculture growth right.”

The aquaculture industry has greatly improved performance since the 1990s, producing more farmed fish per unit of land and water, lowering the share of fishmeal and fish oil in feeds, and largely stopping mangrove conversion. But the world will need to accelerate improvements in aquaculture’s productivity and environmental performance in to increase production in a sustainable way.

“This is an industry that has to grow to meet global food security needs but it’s still too risky for most investors,” said Randall Brummett, Senior Aquaculture Specialist at the World Bank. “We are working for much stronger public-private engagement so that disease and management risks are reduced, improving the ‘investability’ of even small, family-run operations. If we get this right, more diverse investors will come in so that we can intensify aquaculture sustainably.”

The report highlights five approaches to grow aquaculture production sustainably:

  • Invest in technological innovation and transfer, specifically breeding and hatchery technology, disease control, feeds and nutrition, and development of low-impact production systems;

  • Use spatial planning and zoning to reduce cumulative impacts of many farms and ensure that aquaculture stays within the surrounding ecosystem’s carrying capacity;

  • Shift incentives to reward sustainability;

  • Leverage the latest information technology, including satellite and mapping technology, ecological modeling, open data, and connectivity so that global-level monitoring and planning systems support sustainable forms of aquaculture development; and

  • Shift fish consumption toward fish that are low on the food chain—“low-trophic” species such as tilapia, catfish, carp, and bivalve mollusks.

As the global wild fish catch has leveled off even while the world population continues to grow, it is essential to get aquaculture growth right—and ensure that fish farming contributes to a sustainable food future.

Download the full report:

Read more about the World Resources Report: Creating a Sustainable Food Future,

Tune in to a webinar on June 5, 2014 at 10 AM EDT:

The World Resources Institute is a global research organization that spans more than 50 countries, with offices in the United States, China, India, Brazil, and more. Our more than 450 experts and staff work closely with leaders to turn big ideas into action to sustain our natural resources—the foundation of economic opportunity and human well-being.

WorldFish is an international, non-profit research organization that harnesses the potential of fisheries and aquaculture to reduce hunger and poverty. WorldFish is a member of CGIAR, a global agriculture research partnership for a food secure future.

The World Bank Group plays a key role in the global effort to end extreme poverty and boost shared prosperity. It consists of five institutions: the World Bank, including the International Bank for Reconstruction and Development (IBRD) and the International Development Association (IDA); the International Finance Corporation (IFC); the Multilateral Investment Guarantee Agency (MIGA); and the International Centre for Settlement of Investment Disputes (ICSID). Working together in more than 100 countries, these institutions provide financing, advice, and other solutions that enable countries to address the most urgent challenges of development. For more information, please visit,, and

INRA (Institut National de la Recherche Agronomique / National Institute for Agricultural Research) of France is one of the world’s leading institutes for agriculture, food and the environment. INRA produces scientific knowledge and works toward innovations in agriculture, food, nutrition and food safety, environment and land management, with particular emphasis on sustainable development. With more than 10,000 personnel, INRA is ranked 1st in Europe and 2nd in the world for publications in the agricultural, plant, and animal sciences.

Kasetsart University is Thailand’s agricultural university and a leading research university on food security and sustainability. Its Centre of Excellence on enVironmental strategy for GREEN business (VGREEN), Faculty of Environment, is a leading research center on life cycle assessment its applications for sustainable agriculture (including aquaculture). VGREEN also plays an important role in developing the LCA AGRI-FOOD ASIA NETWORK (