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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.

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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:


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

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Authors and Affiliations



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.

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The authors declare no competing interests.

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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).

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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).

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