Global stakeholder vision for ecosystem-based marine aquaculture expansion from coastal to offshore areas.


Please note:

The Commission is in the process of updating some of the content on this website in light of the withdrawal of the United Kingdom from the European Union. If the site contains content that does not yet reflect the withdrawal of the United Kingdom, it is unintentional and will be addressed.



Marine aquaculture is the most promising industry for ensuring future provision of seafood. Yet, the worldwide growth and expansion of this industry have been slower than expected, calling for the identification of environmentally suitable sites while accounting for all factors that could constrain or benefit its establishment. Here, we determine the main obstacles and risks hindering the growth and expansion of marine aquaculture, as well as the needs and recommendations to overcome such constraints. Our analysis is based on results obtained from a consultation process held in 16 study sites located around the world with the participation of 614 stakeholders representing the research community, aquaculture industry, government, conservation groups, and education and fishermen associations. A high level of commonality exists in the main issues hindering aquaculture growth and expansion in coastal, off‐the‐coast and offshore aquaculture with most being attributed to interactions with other maritime activities, including conflicts with other users and administrative procedures, including licensing. Critical needs for improved management and expansion of the aquaculture industry are related to planning and management of developments and technological advances, with economic and market needs featuring to a lesser extent. Key procedures recommended to assist further aquaculture growth are the standardisation and simplification of regulatory frameworks, improvement of governance, and the adoption of participatory processes to facilitate meaningful and productive stakeholder engagement. We strongly recommend stakeholder participation to enhance insights on the full environmental and human dimensions of marine management and for implementation of ecosystem‐based marine spatial planning.

February 2020
Application in MSP: 
Unknown effect
Type of Issue: 
Coexistence of uses
Economic aspects
Ecosystem-based approach
Land-sea interactions
Type of practice: 
Stage of MSP cycle: 
Analyse spatial aspects
Cross-border / trans-national aspect: 
Coherence with other processes: 
Common Fisheries Policy
Integrated Coastal Zone Management
Marine Strategy Framework Directive

Questions this practice may help answer: 

  • What are the main obstacles to aquaculture expansion and growth? 
  • What issues are associated with aquaculture expansion and growth?  
  • What is the stakeholder engagement process in aquaculture projects?  

Implementation Context: 

The analysis is based on results of the global stakeholder consultation that took place within the AquaSpace project - "Ecosystem Approach to Making Space for Aquaculture".  

Aspects / Objectives: 

The study aimed to identify the main obstacles slowing down the expansion of aquaculture, and to provide recommendations to overcome identified constraints. 


Sixteen study sites around the world were analysed through the consultation process that gathered a wide range of stakeholders. The process included: (i) identification of the context and objectives, (ii) identification of relevant stakeholders, (iii) identification of the main topics to design a questionnaire, (iv) a consultation process with stakeholders through 43 workshops, (v) an analysis and interpretation of results, and (vi) a summary of conclusions and recommendations. 

Main Outputs / Results: 

The study identified 44 issues constraining the aquaculture growth. Most of these issues are associated with conflicts of use of the maritime space. The study also highlighted stakeholders' views on the aquaculture and provided recommendations for improving the marine spatial planning. 


The study focused on specific sites.

Responsible Entity: 

Marine Research Division, AZTI, Pasaia, Spain 

Funding Source: 

The study was supported by the AquaSpace project funded by the European Union under H2020 Programme, as well as VAPEM project, funded by the Fisheries and Aquaculture Directorate of the Basque Government.  

Contact person: 

Ibon Galparsoro: 

Marine Research Division - AZTI (Spain)