Global Study Sheds Light on Benefits of Shellfish and Seaweed Aquaculture

Shellfish and seaweed farms provide sustainable seafood and can improve the surrounding environment. Farmed oysters, mussels, and other bivalve shellfish are some of the most environmentally sustainable sources of animal protein. Worth an estimated $350 million in 2017, shellfish are the most valuable marine seafood produced via aquaculture in the United States. Seaweed aquaculture also provides many benefits to both people and the ocean environment.

In a new study, NOAA and our partners used data from around the world to measure the ecosystem services provided by shellfish and seaweed farms. This first of its kind study estimates the economic value of these services from aquaculture on a global scale.

Shellfish and seaweed farms are considered low-to-no input because they don’t require feed, freshwater, or fertilizer. Shellfish eat algae by filtering it from the water. Seaweeds make their own food through photosynthesis like land plants. They can also improve water quality and create habitat for other species.

The study shows just how valuable shellfish and seaweed aquaculture’s ability to soak up excess nutrients from the water can be. It also highlights the value of the habitat it provides for economically important fish species.