Action Group on Sustainable Aquaculture

This Action Group promotes the development of environmentally-compatible, financially-viable and socially-acceptable aquaculture. Aquaculture is ocean farming, including breeding, rearing and harvesting of fish, shellfish, plants, algae and other organisms in all types of water environments.

Cyprus has practised aquaculture for nearly half a century. It has stepped forward as the Commonwealth Blue Charter Champion on Aquaculture, offering expertise in creating sector-wide policies driven by sustainable development and an emphasis on quality and hygiene of aquaculture products.

The Commonwealth Blue Charter recognises the importance of managing marine resources effectively. Aquaculture, practised sustainably and responsibly, supplies nutritious food for an ever-increasing global population, easing the strain on fish stocks while creating jobs and improving people’s well-being.


Aquaculture generates more than 50% of all fish consumed in the world

Since 2014 – and for the first time on record – people have been consuming more farmed aquatic products than catches from the wild.

The state of the world’s marine resources has not been improving; about a third of commercial fish stocks are now fished at biologically unsustainable levels.  So aquaculture plays a vital role to satisfy increasing demand from world population growth.

Globally, aquaculture is the fastest-growing sector of food production, with an average annual growth rate of 6-8 per cent. It has a key role to play in addressing food and nutrition security, sustainable economic development, marine resource management, and health issues in Commonwealth countries.

In 2016, aquaculture generated 80 million tonnes of food fish, worth more than $230 billion at first sale, along with 30 million tonnes of plants and 38 thousand tonnes of non-food products such as pearls and shells, valued at $215 million. Fish remains a major source of protein for humans and aquaculture produces an average of 10kg of fish per person each year.

Almost all fish produced through aquaculture is destined for human consumption


Nearly 600 aquatic species are farmed in about 190 countries around the world


Globally, aquaculture experienced an average annual growth rate of 5.8% from 2001 to 2016

Fish makes up over half of total animal protein intake among populations in Bangladesh, Ghana, The Gambia, Sri Lanka, Sierra Leone and some small island developing states (SIDS)

Five Commonwealth countries – India, Bangladesh, Malaysia, Nigeria and the United Kingdom – sit among the top 25 producers of farmed species in the world. Asia (specifically China) dominates global aquaculture production, but developing countries such as Papua New Guinea in the Pacific and Nigeria, Uganda, Kenya, Zambia and Ghana in Sub-Saharan Africa have become significant producers in their regions.

Aquaculture as an activity has the potential to:

  • contribute towards food security;
  • provide high-quality, healthy products;
  • provide employment opportunities and income; and
  • be environmentally sustainable.

The sector is critical to fulfilling Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) 14 of the 2030 Agenda: to conserve and sustainably use the oceans, seas and marine resources for sustainable development. It is also linked to other SDGs, including SDG 1 (No Poverty), SDG 2 (Zero Hunger), SDG 3 (Good Health and Well-Being), and SDG 8 (Decent Work and Economic Growth).

Notwithstanding the positive effects aquaculture can have, there are also serious environmental risks and challenges that must be managed carefully, including disease outbreaks, coastal degradation and unsustainable feeding practices.

Case Studies

Development of an Aquaculture Industry in Seychelles Case study

Fishing plays an important role in the Seychelles economy, with a fishing industry worth around US$400 million and per capita fish consumption levels more than twice the global average. Despite this, aquaculture has been slow to develop. However, there is a renewed focus on building a sustainable mariculture sector through the Blue Economy Strategic Framework and Roadmap, launched in 2018.

The Seychelles Fishing Authority (SFA) is coordinating efforts to develop marine finfish and marine invertebrate farms in line with the United Nations Food and Agricultural Organization (FAO) Ecosystem Approach to Aquaculture.

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Addressing and Assessing the Environmental Performance of Marine Offshore Photo of the case studyAquaculture in Cyprus

Aquaculture started in Cyprus at the end of 1960s with the establishment of a freshwater aquaculture research station and the subsequent development of private freshwater fish farms.

In the 1970s, a Marine Aquaculture Research Station was set up, which led to the development of land-based marine aquaculture farms at the end of 1980s and the first marine offshore aquaculture farm at the beginning of the 1990s.

Initial aquaculture developments were partially covered by fisheries legislation, but by the 1990s increasing private sector interest in marine aquaculture required the development of specific aquaculture policy as well as the development and establishment of a relevant legislative framework.

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case study aquaculture thumbnailBest Management Practice Training for Egyptian Fish Farmers Managed by WorldFish Under the IEIDEAS and STREAMS Projects

The 2011 Arab Spring revolution resulted in a downturn in the Egyptian economy that threatened the profitability of fish farms. Selling prices for fish were static or declining while costs continued to increase.

A study commissioned by the Swiss Agency for Cooperation and Development (SDC) in 2011 identified opportunities to improve the situation through best management practice (BMP) training and the release of a faster-growing strain of tilapia developed by WorldFish at its Abbassa research centre over the previous decade. This resulted in WorldFish implementing a three-year SDC-funded project, Improving Employment and Income through the Development of Egypt’s Aquaculture Sector, from early 2012.

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More Information

OECD on Aquaculture

Download The Commonwealth Blue Charter

The Commonwealth Blue Charter – Shared Values, Shared Ocean. A Commonwealth commitment to work together to protect and manage our ocean.