We identify a “people–policy gap”, and suggest that this is an understudied constraint, which needs to be overcome before worldwide food security can be achieved from aquatic environments. We argue that this gap leads to uneven distribution of benefits, a disconnection between benefits and local needs, and detrimental effects on human health and food security, all of which can have negative repercussions on human communities and ecosystems. In order to address this need, we present an analytical framework to guide context specific, policy-relevant assessments of the social, economic and ecological dimensions of aquaculture on a case-by-case basis. The framework is designed to make best use of existing data and scientific tools for decision-making.
In conclusion, we argue for: equal consideration of ecological, social and economic issues in aquaculture policy-making; pre-emptive identification of likely social impacts; integration of people- and context-specific social framing conditions into planning and policy review; addressing the social disconnection between global consumption and production; and, encouragement of creative combinations of theories and methods to assess and interpret the social dimensions of aquaculture in multiple contexts.
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