Globally, aquaculture production is forecast to expand rapidly over the coming decades to supply an ever-increasing share of the global demand for seafood. As aquaculture evolves in different regions for different markets, so do the environmental impacts along with the science associated with understanding them. While many earlier environmental concerns of aquaculture have reduced, the large increases in the total production associated with intensification, industrialization and diversification to meet the growing demand mean that understanding the sustainability dynamics of aquaculture continues to be vitally important to producers, buyers, consumers and to not exceeding our local, regional and global ecological carrying capacities.
Understanding, and particularly quantifying the many issues associated with the sustainability of aquaculture production is complicated. It typically involves a number of challenging ecological, philosophical and ethical debates, and necessitates compromises and difficult decisions. Aquaculture products are also increasingly being compared (favorably) to terrestrial protein options, and as aquaculture has now become established as the dominant global provider of seafood (i.e. providing more food than global capture fisheries), its importance to food security at the local and global level must also be considered.