Impacts of aquaculture | WWF

Impacts of aquaculture

Poorly managed aquaculture can lead to a string of unintended impacts that place humans and wildlife in harm's way. But while there are many ways things can go wrong, some pioneering companies are showing there is another way of doing business.

Chemical inputs

Excessive use of chemicals—such as antibiotics, anti-foulants and pesticides—or the use of banned chemicals can have unintended consequences for marine organisms and human health.

Disease and parasites

Viruses and parasites that transfer between farmed and wild species as well as among farmed species present a risk to wild populations or other farms.


Escaped farmed species can compete with wild fish and interbreed with local wild stocks of the same population, altering the overall pool of genetic diversity.


Aquaculture must responsibly source and reduce its dependency upon fishmeal and fish oil—a primary ingredient in feed—so as not to put additional pressure on the world’s fisheries. Fish caught to make fishmeal and fish oil currently represent one-third of the global fish harvest.

Nutrient pollution and carrying capacity

Excess food and fish waste increase the levels of nutrients in the water and have the potential to lead to oxygen-deprived waters that stress aquatic life.

Social issues

Seafood farming often employs a large number of workers on farms and in processing plants, potentially placing labor practices and worker rights under public scrutiny. Additionally, conflicts can arise among users of the shared coastal environment.

Land conversion and degradation

Clearing of land for agriculture feed sources affects high conservation value areas.

Be part of the solution

Farms, seafood processors/traders and retailers can join the Aquaculture Stewardship Council (ASC), the world's leading certification and labelling programme for responsibly farmed seafood. ► Visit the ASC website 

Are you worried that the farmed seafood you buy has caused environmental damage? Look for produce with the ASC label, a guarantee that your purchase has met strict environmental criteria. ► Visit the ASC website 

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