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Temporal patterns of adoption of mariculture innovation globally


Mariculture—farming seafood in the ocean—has been expanding in many countries and has the potential to be a critical component of a sustainable global food system. However, it has developed inconsistently across the globe, with minimal development in some regions, while in others intensive growth threatens sustainability. There is no overall understanding of trajectories of mariculture development around the world. We analyse mariculture development trends at the country level, drawing on diffusion of innovation theory. We show that most countries follow predictable patterns of development that are associated with key economic and governance indicators, such as regulatory quality. We also show that production of some taxa (for example, molluscs) is more strongly associated with stable production over time, as is growing a diversity of species. Taken together, our results suggest that enabling policies may unlock mariculture growth opportunities and that strategies that emphasize production of a diversity of species could contribute to a more stable mariculture industry. Further, by assessing each country’s trajectory of mariculture development in relation to its production potential, we consider the limits and opportunities for future mariculture growth and its contribution to sustainable food systems.

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Fig. 1: Examples of production curves for each curve category.
Fig. 2: The number of species produced per country by curve category.
Fig. 3: The mean indicator value for each of the six World Governance indicators by curve category.
Fig. 4: The relationship between current marine fish production and a conservative estimate of fish production potential for countries categorized as stable or increasing and for which potential production data are available.

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Data availability

All data used in this paper are publicly available and can be accessed through:;;;; and Figure 1 uses raw aquaculture production data downloaded from


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This work was funded by National Science Foundation grant no. 1759559.

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Authors and Affiliations



R.R.G. and S.E.L. developed the research. R.R.G. performed the analysis with input from S.E.L. and E.O.R. All authors interpreted the results. R.R.G. wrote the manuscript with significant contributions from S.E.L. and E.O.R.

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Correspondence to Rebecca R. Gentry.

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Supplementary Figs. 1–2 and Tables 1–5.

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Gentry, R.R., Ruff, E.O. & Lester, S.E. Temporal patterns of adoption of mariculture innovation globally. Nat Sustain 2, 949–956 (2019).

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