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Marine Aquaculture Development: Spatial Management, Conservation Opportunities and Production Potential


Aquaculture is currently the fastest growing food sector in the world, and the oceans are seen as one of the most likely areas for expansion. Marine aquaculture holds immense potential for alleviating food security concerns, revitalizing coastal communities, and spearheading blue development initiatives. However, the growth of aquaculture also presents risks to the environment and other uses and goals in the marine environment. Within the context of likely future expansion, the research presented assesses the development trajectories of marine aquaculture and examines opportunities for conservation focused development.

In this dissertation, I present three separate studies focused on different aspects of aquaculture development and conservation. The first chapter develops a framework for marine spatial planning for offshore aquaculture. The second chapter considers the global potential for marine aquaculture development and assesses the areas that have the most favorable physical and biological characteristics for aquaculture growth. The third chapter investigates when conservation-motivated wildlife farming could be a successful market mechanism to alleviate poaching pressure on threatened species.

I take a multidisciplinary approach to answering these diverse questions, integrating spatial and ecological modeling, ecological and economic theory, and data and literature synthesis.

Key results include that the productivity and environmental impact of aquaculture vary spatially, but that spatial management can be used to maximize value and create synergies with other ocean management objectives (Chapter 1); global scale development potential for marine aquaculture far exceeds the space required to meet foreseeable seafood demand and that suitable space is unlikely to limit marine aquaculture development (Chapter 2); and that aquaculture may be a promising market solution particularly well suited to many threatened aquatic species, especially those that can be farmed relatively cheaply (Chapter 3). Taken together these studies make an important contribution to the field of aquaculture science and provide foundational information on the potential and opportunities for aquaculture development.

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