New England Aquarium staff work with large seafood retailers, including Ahold USA (the parent company of Stop & Shop), Darden, Gortons, and Orion Seafood International, to recommend environmentally responsible seafood. Aquaculture scientists work with these companies to ensure that continual progress is being made toward more environmentally friendly aquaculture. Our analysis capabilities run the broad range of production methods and species, and include the ability to conduct farm-level evaluations of efficiency. We also work with other groups to help determine industry standards and best practices for different production systems. For more information see the Sustainable Seafood Advisory Services.

The health of animals is key to

minimizing environmental impacts of

aquaculture. Aquarium scientists excel

in working on ways to reduce stress

responses in captive animals.

(Photo: M. Tlusty)

Aquarium scientists make farm visits

to evaluate how aquaculture practices relate

to environmental impacts. Here, they

observe tilapia being harvested from a

pond in Ecuador.
(Photo: M. Tlusty)

Aquarium scientists consider all the

ecosystem's concerns in their evaluations of

aquaculture, such as this salmon farm.

(Photo: M. Tlusty)

Project Objectives

    • • Develop new technologies and methods to reduce environmental impacts of aquaculture
  • • Improve sourcing decisions of large companies
  • • Improve standards and the standard setting process for aquaculture

Reducing Environmental Impacts

Aquaculture is a rapidly growing industry that contributes to the increasing demand for seafood. In some cases, however, environmental stewardship may be compromised. The Aquariums aquaculture scientists work to assess environmental impacts and develop methods to reduce the negative effects. For example, research has been conducted on lobster impoundments in Maine to determine levels of organic matter loading and overall consequences to the environment.

One significant negative impact of aquaculture arises when animals escape from their enclosures due to impacts from weather, marine mammals or other causes, leading to the introduction of exotic species into the ecosystem. Research is being conducted on the potential to condition fish to sound. If these fish escape, this learned response to sound can be used to increase recapture efficiency.

Standards Oversight and Development

One way to minimize adverse environmental impacts of aquaculture is to develop and implement standards. Standards can dictate best practices that need to be used on a farm or can be performance-based indicators that allow an independent monitoring party to determine if impacts are truly being kept at a minimum. As part of the Aquarium’s sustainable seafood work, scientists work with both industry and environmental groups to help develop and improve valid, robust standards. We currently work with the Global Aquaculture Alliance and sit on their Standards Oversight Committee and the Salmon Technical Committee. We also work with World Wildlife Fund for Nature and sit on the Steering Committee for Tilapia.