A multidisciplinary analysis of the spatial patterns of marine aquaculture development

Marine aquaculture is a booming industry in certain parts of the world, such as China and Norway, but has failed to reach its potential in countries like the United States. Why aquaculture has developed in a spatially heterogeneous pattern is not well understood, nor are the drivers that have led to this development. Recent research has demonstrated that the most suitable areas for marine aquaculture based on biological growth potential do not correspond with regions boasting high aquaculture development, leading us to hypothesize that other factors such as biogeography, economics, and governance are causing different development trajectories across the world. This National Science Foundation funded project is seeking to understand these patterns of marine aquaculture development, both spatially and temporally, in order to gain insight into one of the fastest growing food systems in the world. 

We will be using a variety of different methods to investigate the drivers of aquaculture development across time and space, including regression, time series analysis, and spatial statistics.  We will also be considering this question across scales, looking at both global and local patterns of aquaculture growth and dissemination of new technologies.


Why does it matter?

Marine aquaculture is growing quickly in many places and has been shown to be one of the most sustainable food production systems in terms of carbon emissions, space use, and freshwater consumption. It also has the potential to bring economic development to coastal communities and to provide healthy, locally grown food in areas that cannot meet seafood demand through wild fishing. However, when marine aquaculture is too dense or intensive or is developed in the wrong places it can have significant negative social and ecological effects. In order to understand when and where marine aquaculture is likely to develop in the future and to inform this development so that it is both socially and environmentally sustainable, we need to understand why and how it has grown in the past. 


Project Team:

  • Dr. Sarah Lester, PI

  • Dr. Rebecca Gentry, post-doc

  • Bess Ruff, PhD student


Related publications:


Project funded by the National Science Foundation Geography and Spatial Sciences Program, Award #1759559