SARC believes that aquaculture can be most sustainable and beneficial under the Ecosystem Approach to Aquaculture (EAA) . This approach focuses on balancing societal, environmental and ecological objectives in aquaculture operations. EAA can be applied at the farm, regional or policy-making level and should work to ensure the contribution of aquaculture to sustainable development. This is done by assessing interactions between the surrounding physical, biological and anthropogenic systems and incorporating learnings to improve efficiency in aquaculture operations. Many examples of EAA exist in a variety of production styles, proving that aquaculture can be more than just a commercial activity. Aquaculture has been used to restore habitats and important species: hatchery operations to enhance stocks of over fished species and coastal restoration through oyster farming provide good examples.
While aquaculture is changing the way the world eats and holds enormous potential, it is a global industry with significant negative impacts. As the human population expands and wild fish stocks are depleted, aquaculture can be sustainable and nutritious alternative food source if done through EAA. Research is needed to address critical questions concerning the social and environmental sustainability of a wide-variety of aquaculture practices. The Sustainable Aquaculture Research Center (SARC), is helping to advance ecosystem-based management of marine aquaculture through solution-oriented science. Located at the University of California Santa Barbara’s Bren School of Environmental Science & Management, SARC addresses socio-ecological impacts and implications using state-of-the-art, collaborative, multidisciplinary approaches.