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The Next Economy
Aquaculture Industry Must Become Regenerative or Fail to Meet Demand by 2050

Analysis from Planet Tracker finds diversifying farmed seafood production can close supply gap while tackling biodiversity risks, and calls on investors and lenders to help finance this regenerative transition.

A new report from Planet Tracker finds the aquaculture industry in its current form will fail to satisfy growing global seafood demand, leaving a supply gap as large as 50 million tons by 2050.

According to Avoiding Aquafailure, even in the most optimistic scenario of improving current aquaculture practices, a supply gap would still exist.

While farming seafood or growing fish in labs could contribute up to 5 million additional tons of seafood by 2050, embracing regenerative approaches to aquaculture — which include, for example, the production of seafood species such as many bivalves (e.g. oysters, mussels and clams) and seaweed species that provide ecosystem benefits such as water filtration or carbon sequestration — could produce an additional 45 million tons of seafood and meet growing demand, Planet Tracker finds.

As with any monoculturally grown commodities, the current approach to fish farming concentrated on a few, popular species leads to a variety of biodiversity risks — with impacts from nutrient pollution to native species displacement — resulting in harm to marine ecosystems and financial losses to the industry, currently valued at roughly US$290 billion. The research finds an increasingly concentrated industry with the top ten seafood-producing counties accounting for 89 percent of the total — and over 75 percent of listed aquaculture companies farming salmon, shrimp or catfish.

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“On land, the conversion of natural habitat into monoculture is widely recognized as a key driver of biodiversity loss; but less acknowledged are the similar patterns affecting marine life due to monoculture fish farming,” says François Mosnier, Head of Planet Tracker’s Oceans Program. “Unsustainable seafood production will not feed the world by 2050; but the good news is that an aquaculture industry that is resilient, productive and environmentally sustainable can be built.

“Planet Tracker found it will take at least US$55 billion in capital expenditure to finance this transition, which most aquaculture companies cannot afford. That’s why we’re calling on investors and lenders to assist with diversifying the aquaculture industry and closing the supply gap.”

The report calls on investors and lenders to finance this regenerative transition by:

  • Being aware of the increasing risks to production in a business-as-usual scenario due to concentration, coastal conflict, production at intensities above sustainable limits and upcoming regulatory pressures.

  • Demanding better disclosure, transparency and traceability procedures from companies to assist in better quantification and mitigation of these risks.

  • Supporting the mitigation of these risks through diversification of species and geographic distribution — especially if the species involved foster ecosystem restoration, and provided that expansion in new areas does not increase the company’s impact on biodiversity investments.

  • Supporting the mitigation of these risks through technology which enables offshore, RAS and cultivated seafood — but only if it is environmentally sound to do so

  • Supporting regenerative aquaculture investments — for instance, by offering cheaper capital for sustainable expansion, including via sustainability-linked bonds.