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Map global marine aquaculture

Posted by Tyler Clavelle | California, United States

Aquaculture, the farming of aquatic animals and plants, is the world's fastest growing food sector and now provides more seafood than wild fisheries. Experts agree that future growth in seafood production must come from aquaculture, as wild fisheries have stabilized and only modest gains can be expected. Marine aquaculture, known as mariculture, currently provides less than half of the seafood from aquaculture and just 18% of total seafood production when wild fisheries are considered. However, mariculture is an efficient and healthy food source and a major form of employment throughout the world. Additionally, the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) recently emphasized the large global potential for mariculture expansion.

Despite mariculture’s clear role in global food security, we still lack basic spatial knowledge about the sector. This information is critical to understanding potential adverse environmental impacts, such as conversion of sensitive habitats, pollution, and impacts on wild fisheries. Fortunately, satellite imagery has advanced to a point where it is now possible to identify mariculture farms from space. Together with modern big data techniques, satellite images could be harnessed to produce a high-resolution map of global marine aquaculture. Such a map would dramatically improve the ability for researchers and managers to study and steward this important use of marine space.

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