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Linked sustainability challenges and trade-offs among fisheries, aquaculture and agriculture

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Fisheries and aquaculture make a crucial contribution to global food security, nutrition and livelihoods. However, the UN Sustainable Development Goals separate marine and terrestrial food production sectors and ecosystems. To sustainably meet increasing global demands for fish, the interlinkages among goals within and across fisheries, aquaculture and agriculture sectors must be recognized and addressed along with their changing nature. Here, we assess and highlight development challenges for fisheries-dependent countries based on analyses of interactions and trade-offs between goals focusing on food, biodiversity and climate change. We demonstrate that some countries are likely to face double jeopardies in both fisheries and agriculture sectors under climate change. The strategies to mitigate these risks will be context-dependent, and will need to directly address the trade-offs among Sustainable Development Goals, such as halting biodiversity loss and reducing poverty. Countries with low adaptive capacity but increasing demand for food require greater support and capacity building to transition towards reconciling trade-offs. Necessary actions are context-dependent and include effective governance, improved management and conservation, maximizing societal and environmental benefits from trade, increased equitability of distribution and innovation in food production, including continued development of low input and low impact aquaculture.

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Fig. 1: Country-level trends in per capita fish supply, human population growth, and access to wild capture fisheries versus aquaculture.
Fig. 2: Fisheries and biodiversity threat status on land and sea.
Fig. 3: Marine biodiversity threat and adaptive capacity in fisheries-dependent countries.
Fig. 4: Multi-model ensemble climate change projections for potential production of marine fisheries and agriculture sectors.
Fig. 5: Climate change impacts and adaptive capacity by continent across land and sea.

Change history

  • 05 June 2018

    In the version of this Review Article originally published, the ORCIDs for Matthias Büchner, John P. Dunne and Olivier Maury were incorrect; they should have been 0000-0002-1382-7424, 0000-0002-8794-0489 and 0000-0002-7999-9982, respectively. These have now been corrected.


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J.L.B. acknowledges funding from the UK Natural Environment Research Council (NERC) ‘Marine Ecosystems Research Programme’, the Centre for Marine Socioecology, the Institute for Marine and Antarctic Studies, the Australian Integrated Marine Observing System and CSIRO. R.A.W. acknowledges funding support from the Australian Research Council Discovery project support (DP140101377). E.A.F acknowledges funding support from the Fisheries Research and Development Corporation (2010/023) on behalf of the Australian government. S.J. acknowledges funding support from the UK Department of Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (project MF1225 ‘Integration of environmental and fisheries management’). Financial support for the fisheries and agriculture production data was provided by the German Federal Ministry of Education and Research (BMBF, grant no. 01LS1201A1) through the Inter-Sectoral Impact Model Intercomparison Project (ISI-MIP). H.K.L acknowledges funding support from the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council (NSERC) of Canada. D.P.T. acknowledges funding from the Kanne Rassmussen Foundation, Denmark. We thank T. Smith and V. Saba for comments that greatly helped us improve earlier drafts.

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J.L.B. and S.J. designed the study, carried out analyses and wrote the paper; R.A.W. and E.A.F. contributed to developing the paper through ideas, analyses and figures; N.K.D. and L.N.K.D. provided interpretation and access to marine biodiversity threat data. J.D., J.E. and C.M. provided interpretation and access to agriculture and Earth system multi-model ensemble outputs. D.T., H.K.L., T.D.E., M.B, A.B., W.W.C., E.G., D.C. and O.M. provided interpretation and access to marine fishery climate change multi-model ensemble outputs. All authors provided comments on the text and figures that helped to develop the paper.

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Correspondence to Julia L. Blanchard.

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Blanchard, J.L., Watson, R.A., Fulton, E.A. et al. Linked sustainability challenges and trade-offs among fisheries, aquaculture and agriculture. Nat Ecol Evol 1, 1240–1249 (2017).

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