Compared to other forms of animal protein production such as livestock, aquaculture is more efficient and less environmentally damaging, according to a new report from the WorldFish Center and Conservation International.

However, the report — which assessed 75 species-production systems over nearly two years — found that the environmental impact of aquaculture varies “dramatically” by country, region, production system and species. It concluded that demand for farmed seafood will continue to grow over the next two decades as a key source of animal protein for growing urban populations, and that the industry needs to meet this demand with improved efficiencies and reduced environmental impacts.

Titled “Blue Frontiers: Managing the environmental costs of aquaculture,” the report is billed as “the most comprehensive analysis of global aquaculture ever undertaken.” It was released on Tuesday at the ASEAN’s (the Association of Southeast Asian Nations) Southeast Asian Fisheries Development Center Conference in Bangkok.

“As the report points out, there must be a wider exchange of knowledge and technology, with policies and action to promote sustainability and investment in research to fill the knowledge gaps. These efforts can lead to a more ecologically sustainable industry — an important goal, if we are to meet the world’s future needs and demands for fish,” said Dr. Stephen Hall, the report’s lead author and director general of the WorldFish Center, a Malaysia-based non-profit.

Among the report’s key findings are:

• Global aquaculture production is expected to reach 65 million to 85 million metric tons by 2020 and 79 million to 110 million metric tons by 2030;

• 61 percent of the world’s seafood is produced in China, and 90 percent of the world’s farmed seafood is raised in Asia;

• Eel aquaculture has the greatest environmental impact, followed by salmon and shrimp, due to the significant energy and fish feed required for production, while bivalves such as mussels and oysters have the least environmental impact, followed by mollusks and seaweed;

• Farmed seafood contributes less per-unit weight to global emissions of nitrogen and phosphorus than beef and pork, which reduces impact on climate change;

• Finfish and shellfish, as compared to either pork or beef, convert a higher percentage of the food they eat into consumable protein, resulting in less waste.

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