Farming Finfish in Coastal Ecosystems and the Open Ocean: Assessing Options for Sustainability


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Photo credit to Seawatch.org


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Principal Investigator
Senior Fellow
  • William Wrigley Professor of Earth System Science
  • Senior Fellow, Stanford Woods Institute and Freeman Spogli Institute for International Studies
  • Senior Fellow and Founding Director, Center on Food Security and the Environment
Klinger FSE photo
Affiliated scholar

If aquaculture is to play a responsible role in the future of seafood here at home, we must ensure that the "blue revolution" in ocean fish farming does not cause harm to the oceans and the marine life they support. The ratio of wild fisheries inputs to farmed fish output has fallen to 0.63 for the aquaculture sector as a whole but remains as high as 5.0 for Atlantic salmon.

Ocean resources are in jeopardy given the current scope of fish capture and other human activities. Many capture fisheries are in decline, and marine finfish aquaculture-often considered to be the solution to problems of over-fishing and other human stresses on the ocean environment-poses additional risks to wild fish stocks. The U.S. government is now proposing the expansion of marine aquaculture offshore in the federal waters of the Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ). In comparison with near-shore aquaculture (within the 3-mile state jurisdiction), offshore aquaculture has the potential to occupy much greater space in the oceans.

This project focuses on marine finfish aquaculture and addresses three broad questions: Are there sustainable approaches for near-shore marine aquaculture that should be promoted, and if so, how? Based on the experience of near-shore aquaculture, what practices and policy approaches should be pursued for offshore aquaculture to minimize its impacts on the marine environment? What are potential feed alternatives to fish meal and fish oil for the aquaculture sector, and how can analyzing trends in future feed use help to reduce the industries environmental impacts?

The proposal outlines a set of activities that includes: collaboration with representatives from the marine aquaculture industry to identify "better" management practices and to design incentive approaches to improve environmental stewardship; the initiation of collaborative scientific research between Stanford and the private sector; interactions with NGOs to strengthen the scientific dimensions of their work; and policy research and communication at the national and state (California) levels. The project will build on the scientific knowledge gained from research in near-shore marine aquaculture systems during the past decade.