The capacity of marine and coastal ecosystems to sustain seafood production and consumption is seldom accounted for and is not included in the signals that guide economic development. In this article, we review estimates of marine and coastal areas aimed at sustaining catches for seafood consumption. The aim of this paper is the assessment of the interactions between the environment, intended as a set of ecological subsystems in natural equilibrium, including the marine ecosystem, and the process of fisheries systems. In particular we analyze fisheries in Italy, which is the third biggest economy and the greatest consumer of seafood in the Eurozone, conducting an in-depth analysis of the Marine Ecological Footprint (MEF) that evaluates the marine ecosystem area exploited by human populations to supply seafood and other marine products and services. The positioning of Italian fisheries shows a level of sustainability next to the threshold value. The analysis in the present study highlights the importance of absolute indicators in providing rough estimates about human dependence on ecological systems and recognizes the importance of those indicators, such as the Marine Footprint (expressed in % of Primary Production Required/Primary Production), in ensuring a high level of precision and accuracy in quantifying human activity impact on the environment.
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