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The ecological and economic potential for offshore mariculture in the Caribbean

Abstract

Offshore mariculture could enable increased seafood production and economic development while alleviating pressure on coastal ecosystems and wild fisheries. In the Caribbean, however, an integrated assessment of the ecological and economic potential for mariculture in the region is lacking. We assess site suitability and develop a spatial bioeconomic model to predict yields and profits for offshore cobia (Rachycentron canadum) mariculture across 30 jurisdictions in the Caribbean. We find that (1) approximately 1.4% of the study area may be technically feasible; (2) the model could avoid conflicts with other uses and sensitive habitats and protected areas; and (3) the model could be economically profitable, with the potential to produce almost half the amount of seafood that is currently harvested from wild fisheries globally. Here, we show that potential farm-scale production and profitability vary across and within countries and that accounting for the foreign investment risk associated with a country will impact estimated farm profitability.

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Code availability

Codes are available through github (https://github.com/lennon-thomas/Carib_aqua_16).

Data availability

The datasets generated and analysed in this study are available from the authors upon request.

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Acknowledgements

Funding for the project was provided by the Waitt Foundation. We thank C. Costello for his advice and input on our economic model; J. Afflerbach for support in conducting spatial analysis and mapping; R. Gentry for her help in developing suitability analysis methods; E. Ruff for her research on aquaculture policy in the Caribbean; and J. Flower for his Caribbean expertise and help with ground-truthing data. S.E.L. acknowledges support from the National Science Foundation under grant no. 1759559.

Author information

All authors contributed to research design and interpretation of results, and provided supporting information for the project. The TPC modelling was conducted by D.K., the suitability analysis and economic model was conducted by T.C. and L.T., and L.T., S.L. and T.C. wrote the paper.

Competing interests

The authors declare no competing interests.

Correspondence to Lennon R. Thomas.

Supplementary information

  1. Supplementary Information

    Supplementary Methods, Supplementary Figures 1–3, Supplementary Tables 1–7, Supplementary References 1–31

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Fig. 1: Offshore mariculture suitability in the Caribbean.
Fig. 2: Estimated total average annual production (MMT) of cobia, by EEZ.
Fig. 3: Monthly cobia growth rates, averaged over 10 years, by EEZ.
Fig. 4: Ten-year NPV (in US$ million) per cobia aquaculture farm by Caribbean EEZ.