Aquaculture’s growing role in aquatic food systems

Aquaculture is the fastest growing food system in the world. We are examining how this food system change is shifting the availability of aquatic foods, including reviewing the impacts of aquaculture on nutrition and examining trade-offs between aquaculture and poultry production. The rapid growth of aquaculture has outpaced the regulatory and political frameworks required to balance production aims with environmental, nutritional, and economic objectives.

The Lake Victoria system is illustrative of these challenges, as a nascent cage aquaculture industry undergoes explosive growth to meet increasing demand for fish in the context of declining wild fish catch and persistent harmful algal blooms. Cyanobacterial-producing harmful algal blooms are widespread and frequent in Lake Victoria and involve cyanobacterial production of a potent liver toxin known as microcystin that accumulates in fish. We aim to elucidate the 1) impacts of aquaculture expansion on local livelihoods and food security and how aquaculture impacts aquatic environmental health, including 2) compare microcystin and fatty acid content of aquaculture-raised and wild fish, and 3) examine fish health and farm management challenges critical to aquaculture industry development.

Example papers and projects:

  • Atkinson Venture Fund Award: Balancing Environmental and Nutritional Tradeoffs of Exapnding Amazon Aquaculture
  • Fiorella, KJ, Okronipa, H, Baker, K, Heilpern, S. 2021. Contemporary Aquaculture: Effects on nutrient availability. Current Opinions in Biotechnology. 70: 83-90.  
  • Heilpern, SA, Fiorella, KJ, Cañas, C, Flecker, AS, Moya, L, Naeem, S, Suresh, SA, Uriarte, M, DeFries, R. 2021. Substitution of inland fisheries with aquaculture and chicken undermines human nutrition. Nature Food. 2: 192-197.
  • Seto, K & Fiorella, KJ. 2017. From Sea to Plate: Remembering Fish in a Sustainable Food System. Frontiers in Marine Science.4(74).