Over one billion people around the world rely on seafood as their primary source of protein, and roughly three billion people obtain at least 15 percent of their total protein intake from seafood (FAO, 2009). Global demand for seafood is growing at a rapid rate, fueled by increases in human population, affluence, and dietary shifts (York and Gossard, 2004). While demand for seafood is increasing, the catch of wild seafood has been declining slightly for 20 years (Watson and Pauly, 2001). Meeting the growth in demand has only been possible by rapid growth in marine aquaculture. The United States consumes nearly five billion pounds of seafood a year, ranking it third globally behind China and Japan. This large consumption, however, comes primarily from fish caught outside the nation's boundary waters. Nearly 85 percent of U.S. consumption is imported, and that fraction is increasing (Becker, 2010). Therefore, consumption of food from the sea links the United States to nearly all the world's ocean ecosystems.
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