Mariculture: Sustainability and Regulations 

Assessing mariculture sustainability at the global level is difficult, because information is not available for every country regarding which species are grown, where that takes place, what methods are used, and what local environmental impacts and maximum sustainable yields could be expected for each species/location/method combination.

The Mariculture Sustainability Index (MSI) (Trujillo 2008) was developed as a framework for evaluating the sustainability of aquaculture production using a score between 1 (poor) and 10 (very good). MSI comprises 13 indicators, covering ecological, economic and social aspects of the industry, for 359 country-species combinations, involving 60 countries and 86 species .

The MSI score is obtained as a combination of all 13 indicators. The Ocean Health Index used one subset of MSI indicators to calculate mariculture sustainability and another subset to calculate mariculture regulations.  Additionally, the indicator on genetic escapees was used to estimate the pressure of mariculture upon the delivery of the biodiversity goal.

Which Goals Does This Affect?

How Was It Measured?

Five (5) of the 13 mariculture practice assessment criteria from the MSI were used for calculating the Status and Resilience measures for the Mariculture sub-goal of the Food Provision goal. These five criteria were selected for having the greatest potential to affect the long-term resilience and sustainability of the mariculture systems being evaluated. 

For sustainability within the Status measure, “fishmeal use,” “waste treatment,” and “seed and larvae origin” were used.

For Resilience, the criteria "traceability" and "code of practice” measures of mariculture governance were used. 

Additionally, a sixth MSI data layer for ‘genetic escapees’ was used as a Pressure to indicate the potential for native or introduced species to reduce the number of species or the extent of habitats that comprise the Biodiversity goal.

Scores for each assessment criterion were aggregated and averaged based upon the proportion of the landings that each assessed species contributed to the overall catch in each country in the current year. Scores were rescaled from the 1 to 10 MSI range to 0 to 1 and then weighted equally to come up with a composite score for Status sustainability or for Resiliencey; these scores are country and species-specific.

Broader descriptions of the five criteria used are shown in the table below.
Description of practice and score scheme for applied criteria categories.

CriteriaWhere UsedDescription of Practice and Score Scheme
Fishmeal UseSustainability Aspect of StatusFish protein and oil inclusion in the diet at any stage of development must be considered; herbivore species will score 10, and carnivorous (piscivorous) organisms will score closer to 1, depending on the level of feed supplied.
Waste TreatmentSustainability Aspect of Status
Water exchange, output destinations, recycling and filtering of open water discharge or closed system reuse systems. Systems that are closed score high (10), while open systems without waste treatments score low (1)
Seed and Larvae OriginSustainability Aspect of Status

Hatcheries are major providers of larvae, fry and seeds. Broodstock origin and strain will also affect the score. Wild seed collection and its importance contribute to a low score due to bycatch and other effects on non-target species. 


Traceability is an important factor in assuring food safety.  High score (8 or 9) was given if product was traceable to a specific geographical origin, slaughtering house or processing facility.  If the origin and preparation of feed used in the process was also traceable to specific locations and facilities, a score of 10 was given. 

Code of PracticeResilience

The existence of documents containing codes and standards for aquaculture practices, as well as evidence of use, compliance and enforcement is used as evidence for mariculture Resilience. Mariculture that met all those criteria received a score of 10 in the MSI.

Native or non-native speciesPressureWhether species grown are native or non-native to the area is used as a measure of  the likelihood that genetic escapes will impact Biodiversity.  Native species score low (1) and non-native species score high (10) as a Pressure for Biodiversity. 
Code of Practice UsageResilienceIs there an up to date code of practice with good standards and principles; is it used and is there certification?  MSI scores for this category are used as Resilience measures for Mariculture.  MSI score for mariculture operations meeting all these criteria was 10, with progressively lower scores for fewer criteria met. 

Source: (Trujillo, 2008 - Table S25)


PHOTO(S): © Keith A. Ellenbogen
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