The combined impacts of large-scale industrial fishing, a rapidly growing human population, poor governance and management, and climate change have collectively resulted in the overexploitation and depletion of many fish stocks. Concurrently, a rapidly increasing global population poses food security demands for healthy, sustainable protein sources. Aquaculture has grown substantially to help meet this need and may relieve pressure on some wild stocks, but overfishing, destructive aquaculture practices, and poor ocean health persists throughout the ocean.
One radical approach to curbing overfishing and restoring marine ecosystems, while also addressing food security, is to develop cell-based seafood products. The field of cellular agriculture – the process of producing meat from cell- and tissue-cultures – offers potential new market alternatives that are sustainably produced, scalable to nearly any size, and could serve as a market substitute to wild caught and farmed fish. However, questions remain as to what the ecological and economic impacts of the nascent industry will be on wild-caught and aquaculture products, and if cell-based seafood can provide conservation benefits. Our team is developing novel insights into the possible conservation benefits of cell-based seafood alternatives, unpacking the complex chain of events required for such demand-driven interventions to reduce overfishing and aid fisheries recovery.