Marine aquaculture is the practice of farming fish, crustaceans, and shellfish for human consumption. Businesses breed and harvest the plants and animals in either fresh water or sea water. This type of farming provides over half of all the fish product that we eat in the world. Aquaculture has many benefits such as providing year around jobs, producing food for humans to eat, helping to rebuild populations of threatened and endanger species and restoring habitats. Natural and onshore tanks are the two methods of aquaculture practices.
Fish farming in a natural environment is using floating nets anchored to the seabed in seawater. Salmon, sea bass, sea bream and trout are some fish species that are farmed using this method. Fresh water species like artic char, smolt (young salmon) and trout are raised in ponds or cages in freshwater aquaculture systems.
Fish farming using onshore tanks is when fish are raised in rearing tanks filled with either fresh water or seawater. Some farms use an open system which is when the water is only used once, and other farms use a close or recirculation system where the water is recycled.
Why do we need aquaculture? It is projected that by 2050 there will be close to 10 billion people on the planet, where right now we are sitting at around 7 billion. We need aquaculture to meet the demand for seafood for people around the world. The demand for wild fish is having a negative impact on our wild fish stocks. This is due to overfishing and destructive fishing practices; this means that the wild fish are not having enough time to replenish themselves before they are fished again.
Aquaculture operations in the marine environment means they use the ocean to breed, grow and harvest fish in nets. This has its benefits such as a smaller carbon footprint, using less land and fresh water and can help reduce the pressure on wild fisheries. According to the Aquarium of the Pacific farms operating in United States water are vulnerable to some of the most comprehensive environmental, seafood safety, and regulatory programs in the world.
There are some concerns that come with farming fish in the marine environment especially when the fisheries are not closely monitored, managed properly and not designed correctly. Poor production practices for fish grown in an open system can be transfer of diseases from farmed fish to wild fish, resulting in the need to use chemicals and antibiotics to treat diseases and parasites. Overfishing of the fish needed to feed the farmed fish, in this case investments have been made towards research to developing a feed that requires fewer wild fish to feed the farmed fish.
Shelby Tedrow is an ANR and 4-H Youth Development Program Assistant for OSU Extension-Wayne County. She can be reached by calling 330-264-8722.
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This article was previously published in The Daily Record.