Assessing sustainability of aquaculture development
Aquaculture, as an aquatic based economic activity, has risen from relative obscurity to a position of global recognition in just over two decades, and is forecast to become increasingly important in the next century. This growth, however, has been accompanied by increasing concerns over the environmental and social costs associated with the exploitation of the natural resource base on which it depends. This occurs in the broader context of increasing awareness of the finite capacity of the global system, and the need for development of more sustainable resource management regimes. The objective of the study is to examine if and how 'sustainability' can be brought into assessment for aquaculture development. The main concepts of sustainability are discussed, and key issues for assessment identified. The range of impacts associated with aquaculture development is reviewed, and broad categories of sectoral sustainability indicators proposed. Specific issues and assessment approaches are examined in three case studies, focusing on environment interactions, resource use assessment, and the rural development context, respectively. There follows a structured analysis of applicability of selected generic appraisal methods, concluding that while all may contribute, none is sufficiently broad to account for all sustainability perspectives. A more comprehensive framework for the assessment is therefore proposed, by which sustainability features of any system can be described, potential indicators and methods of assessment identified, and results communicated to the decision making process. This does not offer a definitive judgement on sustainability, but presents an holistic view, allowing explicit recognition of trade-offs involved between conflicting sustainability objectives. It is concluded that sufficient information is available for this approach to be developed and applied on a wider basis. Constraints to more sustainable development relate more to the social, political and economic environment than to problems of uncertainty in forecasting biological and physical systems.