Ecological aquaculture is the implementation of aquaculture ecosystems which produce not only economic, but also social and ecological profit.

Fundamental understanding of aquaculture ecosystems is achieved by understanding the diversity of system types and units (see systems), and understanding the social ecology of their place based context. The most important ecological classifications of aquaculture ecosystems are: (a) their location within or separate from the environment, (b) the levels of operational intensity (management, feeds, water flows, etc.), and (c) the level of system’s integration.

There are five essential elements to consider:

I.   Ecological design: Ecological aquaculture plans at scale for combined social-ecological aquaculture ecosystems, which are food-energy-water-waste systems at the commercial-family-community-bioregional scales.

II.   Ecological engineering: Ecological aquaculture uses renewable, alternative and appropriate technologies.

Aquapods being constructed to test the feasibility of low or "no feed" marine shrimp aquaculture

III.   Social ecology. Ecological aquaculture plans for “social profit”, using “farmer first” farming systems research and extension methods and cooperative aquaculture research designs and protocols.

IV.   Ecological economics. Ecological aquaculture measures returns to labor as well as capital; considers opportunity costs and full cost accounting of ecosystems goods & services; plans for localization of food systems and regional multiplier effects.

V.   Ecological governance. Ecological aquaculture uses the “orders of outcomes framework” to develop governance baselines, and uses a sustainability science toolkit to measure and communicate “sustainability  trajectories”.

Costa-Pierce, B.A. 2003. Use of ecosystems science in ecological aquaculture. Bull. Aquacul. Assoc. Canada 103(2): 32-40.

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