Global change in marine aquaculture production potential under climate change


Climate change is an immediate and future threat to food security globally. The consequences for fisheries and agriculture production potential are well studied, yet the possible outcomes for aquaculture (that is, aquatic farming)—one of the fastest growing food sectors on the planet—remain a major gap in scientific understanding. With over one-third of aquaculture produced in marine waters and this proportion increasing, it is critical to anticipate new opportunities and challenges in marine production under climate change. Here, we model and map the effect of warming ocean conditions (Representative Concentration Pathway scenario 8.5) on marine aquaculture production potential over the next century, based on thermal tolerance and growth data of 180 cultured finfish and bivalve species. We find heterogeneous patterns of gains and losses, but an overall greater probability of declines worldwide. Accounting for multiple drivers of species growth, including shifts in temperature, chlorophyll and ocean acidification, reveals potentially greater declines in bivalve aquaculture compared with finfish production. This study addresses a missing component in food security research and sustainable development planning by identifying regions that will face potentially greater climate change challenges and resilience with regards to marine aquaculture in the coming decades. Understanding the scale and magnitude of future increases and reductions in aquaculture potential is critical for designing effective and efficient use and protection of the oceans, and ultimately for feeding the planet sustainably.

Access options

Rent or Buy article

Get time limited or full article access on ReadCube.


All prices are NET prices.

Fig. 1: Total average suitable area for finfish and bivalves by time and region.
Fig. 2: Average percentage change in finfish aquaculture production potential over time.
Fig. 3: Average percentage change in bivalve aquaculture production potential over time.
Fig. 4: Probability of the aquaculture production potential declining over time.

Data availability

Computer code and data products reported in this paper are publicly accessible from the Knowledge Network for Biocomplexity data repository:


  1. 1.

    Waite, R. et al. Improving Productivity and Environmental Performance of Aquaculture (World Resources Institute, 2014).

  2. 2.

    The State of World Fisheries and Aquaculture (SOFIA) (FAO, 2016).

  3. 3.

    Hambrey, J. The 2030 Agenda and the Sustainable Development Goals: The Challenge for Aquaculture Development and Management FAO Fisheries and Aquaculture Circular 1141 (Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations, 2017).

  4. 4.

    Gentry, R. R. et al. Mapping the global potential for marine aquaculture. Nat. Ecol. Evol. 1, 1317–1324 (2017).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  5. 5.

    Barange, M., King, J., Valdés, L. & Turra, A. The evolving and increasing need for climate change research on the oceans. ICES J. Mar. Sci. 73, 1267–1271 (2016).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  6. 6.

    Cheung, W. W. et al. Large-scale redistribution of maximum fisheries catch potential in the global ocean under climate change. Glob. Change Biol. 16, 24–35 (2010).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  7. 7.

    Barange, M. et al. Impacts of climate change on marine ecosystem production in societies dependent on fisheries. Nat. Clim. Change 4, 211–216 (2014).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  8. 8.

    Blanchard, J. L. et al. Potential consequences of climate change for primary production and fish production in large marine ecosystems. Phil. Trans. R. Soc. B 367, 2979–2989 (2012).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  9. 9.

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

    Article  Google Scholar 

  10. 10.

    Feely, R., Doney, S. & Cooley, S. Ocean acidification: present conditions and future changes in a high-CO2 world. Oceanography 22, 36–47 (2009).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  11. 11.

    Klinger, D. H., Levin, S. A. & Watson, J. R. The growth of finfish in global open-ocean aquaculture under climate change. Proc. R. Soc. B 284, 20170834 (2017).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  12. 12.

    Reid, G. K., Filgueira, R. & Garber, A. Revisiting temperature effects on aquaculture in light of pending climate change. In Aquaculture Canada Proceedings of Contributed Papers Vol. 2015-1 (Bulletin of the Aquaculture Association of Canada, 2015).

  13. 13.

    Froehlich, H. E., Gentry, R. R. & Halpern, B. S. Synthesis and comparative analysis of physiological tolerance and life-history growth traits of marine aquaculture species. Aquaculture 460, 75–82 (2016).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  14. 14.

    Kumar, G., Engle, C. & Tucker, C. Factors driving aquaculture technology adoption. J. World Aquac. Soc. 49, 447–476 (2018).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  15. 15.

    Cisneros-Montemayor, A. M., Pauly, D., Weatherdon, L. V. & Ota, Y. A global estimate of seafood consumption by coastal indigenous peoples. PLoS ONE 11, e0166681 (2016).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  16. 16.

    Cooley, S. R., Lucey, N., Kite-Powell, H. & Doney, S. C. Nutrition and income from molluscs today imply vulnerability to ocean acidification tomorrow. Fish Fish. 13, 182–215 (2012).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  17. 17.

    Belton, B., Bush, S. R. & Little, D. C. Not just for the wealthy: rethinking farmed fish consumption in the Global South. Glob. Food Secur. 16, 85–92 (2018).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  18. 18.

    Bell, J. D. et al. Effects of climate change on oceanic fisheries in the tropical Pacific: implications for economic development and food security. Clim. Change 119, 199–212 (2012).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  19. 19.

    Froehlich, H. E., Gentry, R. R. & Halpern, B. S. Conservation aquaculture: shifting the narrative and paradigm of aquaculture’s role in resource management. Biol. Conserv. 215, 162–168 (2017).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  20. 20.

    Marshall, K. N. et al. Risks of ocean acidification in the California Current food web and fisheries: ecosystem model projections. Glob. Change Biol. 23, 1525–1539 (2017).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  21. 21.

    Silbiger, N. J. & Sorte, C. J. B. Biophysical feedbacks mediate carbonate chemistry in coastal ecosystems across spatiotemporal gradients. Sci. Rep. 8, 796 (2018).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  22. 22.

    Laufkötter, C. et al. Drivers and uncertainties of future global marine primary production in marine ecosystem models. Biogeosciences 12, 6955–6984 (2015).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  23. 23.

    Gobler, C. J. et al. Ocean warming since 1982 has expanded the niche of toxic algal blooms in the North Atlantic and North Pacific oceans. Proc. Natl Acad. Sci. USA 114, 4975–4980 (2017).

    CAS  Article  Google Scholar 

  24. 24.

    Lafferty, K. D. The ecology of climate change and infectious diseases. Ecology 90, 888–900 (2009).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  25. 25.

    Burge, C. A. et al. Climate change influences on marine infectious diseases: implications for management and society. Annu. Rev. Mar. Sci. 6, 249–277 (2014).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  26. 26.

    Leung, T. L. & Bates, A. E. More rapid and severe disease outbreaks for aquaculture at the tropics: implications for food security. J. Appl. Ecol. 50, 215–222 (2013).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  27. 27.

    Breitburg, D. et al. Declining oxygen in the global ocean and coastal waters. Science 359, eaam7240 (2018).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  28. 28.

    Weatherdon, L. V., Magnan, A. K., Rogers, A. D., Sumaila, U. R. & Cheung, W. W. L. Observed and projected impacts of climate change on marine fisheries, aquaculture, coastal tourism, and human health: an update. Front. Mar. Sci. 3, 48 (2016).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  29. 29.

    Handisyde, N. T., Ross, L. G., Badjeck, M. C. & Allison, E. H. The Effects of Climate Change on World Aquaculture: A Global Perspective (Department for International Development, 2006).

  30. 30.

    Filgueira, R., Guyondet, T., Comeau, L. A. & Tremblay, R. Bivalve aquaculture–environment interactions in the context of climate change. Glob. Change Biol. 22, 3901–3913 (2016).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  31. 31.

    Christiansen, J. S., Mecklenburg, C. W. & Karamushko, O. V. Arctic marine fishes and their fisheries in light of global change. Glob. Change Biol. 20, 352–359 (2014).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  32. 32.

    Froehlich, H. E., Smith, A., Gentry, R. R. & Halpern, B. S. Offshore aquaculture: I know it when I see it. Front. Mar. Sci. 4, 154 (2017).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  33. 33.

    R Core Development Team R: A Language and Environment for Statistical Computing (R Foundation for Statistical Computing, 2017).

  34. 34.

    Taylor, K. E., Stouffer, R. J. & Meehl, G. A. An overview of CMIP5 and the experiment design. Bull. Am. Meteorol. Soc. 93, 485–498 (2011).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  35. 35.

    Tittensor, D. P. et al. A protocol for the intercomparison of marine fishery and ecosystem models: Fish-MIP v1.0. Geosci. Model Dev. 11, 1421–1442 (2018).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  36. 36.

    Brown, P. T. & Caldeira, K.Greater future global warming inferred from Earth’s recent energy budget. Nature 552, 45–50 (2017).

    CAS  Article  Google Scholar 

  37. 37.

    Grieve, B. D., Hare, J. A. & Saba, V. S. Projecting the effects of climate change on Calanus finmarchicus distribution within the U.S. Northeast Continental Shelf. Sci. Rep. 7, 6264 (2017).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  38. 38.

    Blanchette, C. A., Helmuth, B. & Gaines, S. D. Spatial patterns of growth in the mussel, Mytilus californianus, across a major oceanographic and biogeographic boundary at Point Conception, California, USA. J. Exp. Mar. Biol. Ecol. 340, 126–148 (2007).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  39. 39.

    Page, H. M. & Hubbard, D. M. Temporal and spatial patterns of growth in mussels Mytilus edulis on an offshore platform: relationships to water temperature and food availability. J. Exp. Mar. Biol. Ecol. 111, 159–179 (1987).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  40. 40.

    Bopp, L. et al. Multiple stressors of ocean ecosystems in the 21st century: projections with CMIP5 models. Biogeosciences 10, 6225–6245 (2013).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  41. 41.

    Clements, J. C. & Chopin, T. Ocean acidification and marine aquaculture in North America: potential impacts and mitigation strategies. Rev. Aquacult. 9, 326–341 (2016).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  42. 42.

    Thomsen, J. et al. Naturally acidified habitat selects for ocean acidification-tolerant mussels. Sci. Adv. 3, e1602411 (2017).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  43. 43.

    Mangan, S., Urbina, M. A., Findlay, H. S., Wilson, R. W. & Lewis, C. Fluctuating seawater pH/pCO2 regimes are more energetically expensive than static pH/pCO2 levels in the mussel Mytilus edulis. Proc. R. Soc. B 284, 20171642 (2017).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  44. 44.

    Fabry, V. J., Seibel, B. A., Feely, R. A. & Orr, J. C. Impacts of ocean acidification on marine fauna and ecosystem processes. ICES J. Mar. Sci. 65, 414–432 (2008).

    CAS  Article  Google Scholar 

  45. 45.

    Feely, R. A. et al. The combined effects of ocean acidification, mixing, and respiration on pH and carbonate saturation in an urbanized estuary. Estuar. Coast. Shelf Sci. 88, 442–449 (2010).

    CAS  Article  Google Scholar 

  46. 46.

    Gaylord, B. et al. Ocean acidification through the lens of ecological theory. Ecology 96, 3–15 (2015).

    Article  Google Scholar 

Download references


This research was funded by the Zegar Family Foundation through the ‘Anticipating Climate Change Impacts on Ocean Aquaculture’ project.

Author information




H.E.F., R.R.G. and B.S.H. conceived the initial study. H.E.F. and R.R.G. developed the research and methodology, with critical input and insight from B.S.H. H.E.F. and R.R.G. collected and processed the data. H.E.F. conducted the analyses. All authors interpreted the results and implications. H.E.F. produced the figures. H.E.F. drafted the manuscript with significant input and revisions from all authors.

Corresponding author

Correspondence to Halley E. Froehlich.

Ethics declarations

Competing interests

The authors declare no competing interests.

Additional information

Publisher’s note: Springer Nature remains neutral with regard to jurisdictional claims in published maps and institutional affiliations.

Supplementary information

Supplementary Information

Supplementary Tables 1–2; Supplementary Figures 1–16

Reporting Summary

Supplementary Data 1

Probability of decline of suitable area in respective Exclusive Economic Zones (EEZs) of countries/territories for finfish and bivalves for each time step. Time steps correspond to (a) 2010–2030 relative to historic (1985–2005; Δt1), (b) 2030–2050 relative to 2010–2030 (Δt2), (c) 2050–2070 relative to 2030–2050 (Δt3), and (d) 2070–2090 relative to 2050–2070 (Δt4). A ‘na’ in the bivalve column indicates non-suitable condition based on our assumed global modelling constraints (temperature and chlorophyll).

Rights and permissions

Reprints and Permissions

About this article

Verify currency and authenticity via CrossMark

Cite this article

Froehlich, H.E., Gentry, R.R. & Halpern, B.S. Global change in marine aquaculture production potential under climate change. Nat Ecol Evol 2, 1745–1750 (2018).

Download citation

Further reading