Global opportunities for mariculture development to promote human nutrition

Owen R. Liu, Renato Molina, Margaret Wilson, Benjamin S. Halpern

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

19 Scopus citations


An estimated two billion people worldwide currently suffer from micronutrient malnutrition, and almost one billion are calorie deficient. Providing adequate nutrition is a growing global challenge. Seafood is one of the most important sources of both protein and micronutrients for many, yet production from wild capture fisheries has stagnated. In contrast, aquaculture is the world's fastest-growing food production sector and now supplies over half of all seafood consumed globally. Mariculture, or the farming of brackish and marine species, accounts for roughly one-third of all aquaculture production and has received increasing attention as a potential supplement for wild-caught marine fisheries. By analyzing global patterns in seafood reliance, malnutrition levels, and economic opportunity, this study identifies where mariculture has the greatest potential to improve human nutrition. We calculate a mariculture opportunity index for 117 coastal nations by drawing on a diverse set of seafood production, trade, consumption, and nutrition data. Seventeen primary variables are combined into country-level scores for reliance on seafood, opportunity for nutritional improvement, and opportunity for economic development of mariculture. The final mariculture opportunity score identifies countries with high seafood reliance combined with high nutritional and economic opportunity scores. We find that island nations in Southeast Asia and the Caribbean are consistently identified as countries with high mariculture opportunity. In other regions, nutritional and economic opportunity scores are not significantly correlated, and we discuss the implications of this finding for crafting appropriate development policy. Finally, we identify key challenges to ameliorating malnutrition through mariculture development, including insufficient policy infrastructure, government instability, and ensuring local consumption of farmed fish. Our analysis is an important step towards prioritizing nations where the economic and nutritional benefits of expanding mariculture may be jointly captured.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article numbere4733
Issue number5
StatePublished - 2018
Externally publishedYes


  • Aquaculture
  • Global analysis
  • Mariculture
  • Nutrition
  • Public policy
  • Seafood

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Neuroscience(all)
  • Biochemistry, Genetics and Molecular Biology(all)
  • Agricultural and Biological Sciences(all)


Dive into the research topics of 'Global opportunities for mariculture development to promote human nutrition'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this