Archetypes of aquaculture development across 150 countries

Archetypes of aquaculture development across 150 countries

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Aquaculture is expanding and intensifying globally, with implications for environmental, livelihood, food security and nutrition impacts. Here we present an integration of 45 country-level indicators to examine the social, economic, governance and environmental conditions shaping aquaculture development across 150 countries and four identified archetypes of aquaculture through cluster analysis.

Understanding the social, economic, environmental and governance factors guiding current aquaculture development is essential for analyzing the sector’s rising contributions to food and livelihood security.

The sector is now a key contributor to global food security and nutrition producing near equal amounts of seafood as capture fisheries. However, many questions remain regarding its sustainability. A main challenge is analyzing the underlying drivers of a highly diverse sector with marine, brackish and freshwater geographies, each with unique culturing techniques and environmental dependencies.

“The need for comprehensive and integrated data to understand and characterize aquaculture development has been gaining increasing attention over recent years. In response, a number of studies have demonstrated the utility of multi-disciplinary analysis and the use of broader data sets in aquaculture research.”

For example, the use of global governance and economic data has been used to explain aquaculture development trajectories and potential across countries, confirming connections between local governance and sustainable development (Davies et al., 2019; Gentry et al., 2019).

Here is presented research projects, that compiles and integrates 45 country-level indicators associated with macro-level aquaculture development and analyzes archetypes across 150 countries. This data provides the most comprehensively compiled data set and assessment of social, economic, political and environmental factors shaping aquaculture trends.


An important hypothesis in this analysis was to test if both social and ecological factors influence aquaculture development across countries.

To conceptually organize this data to examine this hypothesis, we used the social-ecological systems framework (SESF). The SESF has 8 first-tier variables, and each indicator was categorized as one of the first-tier variables. The following six first-tier variables were assigned indicators: Actors; governance; resource systems; resource units; social, economic and political settings; external ecosystems.

All the data used in this study were collected from secondary sources. The final data included 45 indicators with full coverage in 150 countries standardized by ISO 3166 code, including the top 100 aquaculture producing countries. Justifications for all indicators are provided in relation to their relevance to aquaculture development.

Results and discussion

Comparing production conditions and risks

The conditions under which aquaculture is produced in a country are highly influential on its development trajectory, and can explain historical trends and future scenarios.

It was found that 86% of aquaculture is produced in countries that score in the most at-risk 1st and 2nd quartile ranges (bottom half) of the Climate Risk Index, which ranks countries based on the extent to which they have been affected by the impacts of weather-related loss events (storms, floods, heat waves, etc.) (Table 1).

Archetypes of aquaculture development across 150 countries

Similarly, 74.44% of aquaculture is produced in countries that rank in the worst performing 1st and 2nd quartile ranges of the Environmental Performance Index, which provides a data-driven summary of the state of sustainability around the world.

Archetypes of aquaculture development

Archetype 1: Emerging aquaculture producers. This archetype includes countries (Figure 1) characterized by low aquaculture production and the lowest total aquaculture species count of any archetype, while also having the highest ratio of freshwater production and highest average 10-year growth rate, as well as lowest average environmental performance (EPI) and EEZ size (Figure 2).

Archetypes of aquaculture development across 150 countries

This archetype covers much of central Africa and numerous west Asian countries with the lowest average GDP of all archetypes (Figure 2). The geographical distribution of Archetype 1 includes a majority of sub-Saharan African countries and land-locked countries in Asia and South America.

Archetypes of aquaculture development across 150 countries

Countries in Archetype 1 are likely lack of the same types of government investment in the sector as other more established producers, such as sector specific agencies and extensions officers. Strengthening and supporting existing community-based approaches may be most effective to ensure that prioritizing livelihood security is coupled with addressing nutrition issues for larger dispersed rural populations within countries in Archetype 1.

Securing property rights for smallholders to at least access and use water and land should be considered a starting point for justice-based development.

Archetype 2: Limited aquatic food engagement. Archetypes 2 countries have both low total aquaculture production and the lowest overall capture fisheries production, above average freshwater production ratio, but also the lowest inland water area and irrigation area, and above average environmental performance (Figure 1; Figure 2).

These countries have the lowest overall seafood consumption but relatively average per capita consumption, with moderately high HDI and governance indicators. Archetype 2 consists of primarily eastern European countries along with a small number of African, South American, and Asian countries with moderately above average GDP, lowest average total population, and the lowest average value added from agriculture, fisheries, and forestry (Figure 2).

“Aquaculture is an established sector in Archetype 2 countries, but unlikely to be a main priority development area for a country’s food security and economy, given its low value added to the overall economy. Archetype 2 scores well on national governance and environmental performance, but likely faces issues related to intensification and technology.”

Inland freshwater and irrigation availability score is low, although freshwater production is the dominant production environment, suggesting intensified production that leverages technology to produce feed for aquaculture in more densely populated fish ponds.

Considering how such production interacts with other sectors, likely needs consideration within a more regulatory intensive governance landscape. Due to lower domestic demand for seafood, larger portions of production may be exported from larger companies rather than rural small-scale producers, for example, to other European Union markets.

Creating the right market incentives for sustainability and understanding changes in consumer demand may help inform effective strategies.

Archetype 3: Developing economy producers. Archetype 3 includes countries with high total aquaculture production, high aquaculture imports and export value, and high total species counts across all production types, including the highest average brackish species counts and brackish production ratio (Figure 1; Figure 2).

These countries have high overall seafood consumption and the highest average domestic seafood supply, and moderately low governance indicators.

“Archetype 3 includes most of southeast Asia including China and India, as well as Russia and most of Latin America (Figure 1). Countries in Archetype 3 require the most urgent governance attention given the role of seafood production within the agricultural economy and cultures.”

Large rural production investments spawned by traditional practices in high seafood consuming societies have likely very quickly put pressure on aquaculture to meet domestic needs historically met by declining capture fisheries yields. Scaling from low intensity traditional pond aquaculture to technology driven fish production enterprises needs oversight from national governments to minimize environmental impacts.

Simultaneously, aquaculture need priority governance focus across scales, from national to local, to help tailor development ambitions to local needs and assist small-scale producers in increasing efficiency in production while securing stable market opportunities and innovation along the value chain.

Archetype 4: Wealthy economy producers. Like Archetype 3, Archetype 4 countries have high total aquaculture production, high aquaculture import and export value, and high total species counts across all production types, however, Archetype 4 is characterized by the highest overall marine production ratio and marine species counts and the lowest freshwater production ratio (Figure 1; Figure 2).

“Archetype 4 encompasses primarily high-GDP countries, including most of Western Europe as well as Japan, Australia, US, and Canada, with moderately high overall and coastal populations (Figure 1).”

Governing aquaculture in Archetype 4 will include finding and enabling mechanisms for technology development, increasing public awareness and consumer uptake of farmed seafood products and ensuring the supply chains for feed don’t export the environmental impacts of feed sourcing, whether capture fisheries or grain products to the countries where they are produced.

Aquaculture expansion among wealthier, producing nations may require consideration of removing governance barriers to allow aquaculture growth if desired or deliberate engagement with sectors that already have established rights and regulations for resource use historically.


Aquaculture development is shaped by a wide range of macro-level conditions, including social, economic, environmental and governance factors. It was identifying four socialecological archetypes globally, which are differentiated by their distributions across more than 40 indicators.

Each archetype provides a unique fingerprint of the potential drivers, limitations and opportunities present across the countries within them, and allows comparison with countries in the other archetypes to better understand the likelihood of future development trajectories and how governance choices can help meet national-level goals and reduce risks.

This analysis shows the value of integrated data analysis, and demonstrates the need to move beyond isolated species production data as the cornerstone of understanding the sector’s development. Coupling global and country-level assessments such as this with case study analyses of specific countries will assist in confirming or modifying knowledge about the performance of the sector and its development in any specific country.

This is a summarized version developed by the editorial team of Aquaculture Magazine based on the review article titled “ARCHETYPES OF AQUACULTURE DEVELOPMENT ACROSS 150 COUNTRIES” developed by: Partelow, S. – Leibniz Centre for Tropical Marine Research and University of Bonn; Nagel, B. – Leibniz entre for Tropical Marine Research and Jacobs University; Gentry, R. – Florida State University and The Nature Conservancy; Gephart, J. – American University; Rocha, J. – Stockholm Resilience Center.
The original article, including tables and figures, was published on MARCH, 2023, through SOCARXIV PAPERS. The full version can be accessed online through this link: 10.31235/

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