Benefits of Aquaculture
Aquaculture or fish farming accounts for over 50% of the world market for fish products. As global populations continue to increase, wild populations of commercially captured fish can no longer support this demand. Aquaculture provides an efficient means of protein production. In the US great strides have been taken by the industry to insure best management practices for the sustainability, consistency, econmic feasibility, food safety, and environmentaly friendly ways for farmed fish and shellfish production.
Aquaculture is a truly sustainable fishery. Many farmed species are listed as “Best Choices” by the Monterey Bay Aquarium Seafood Watch Northeast Sustainable Seafood Guide. Some of these include US farmed clams, mussels, oysters, scallops, arctic char, barramundi, catfish, cobia, rainbow trout, striped bass, and tilapia. Aquaculture is a resource efficient way to produce protein when comparing the ratio of pounds of feed to produce a pound of protein. Farm raised salmon is the most feed intensive cultured fish with a ratio of 1.2 pounds of feed to produce 1 pound of salmon, still lower than the 1.9 pounds of feed to produce 1 pound of chicken (Pork 5.9 : 1, Beef 8.7 : 1).
Wild fish stock populations fluctuate and have limitations on availability throughout the year. Most commercial fish species are severely overfished and supplies cannot meet the demands of the world market. Aquaculture can provide consistently stable supplies of finish and shellfish into the marketplace to meet this demand.
Aquaculture provides thousands of jobs in operations and ancillary services especially for those jobs being displaced by shrinking commercial capture fisheries. In the US over 80% of fish are imported with about 50% of that being aquacultured fish. US aquaculture production accounts for just over a billion dollars annually versus almost $100 billion for world production. Expanding the aquaculture industry in the US will create more jobs locally and potentially improving the economic outlook for working waterfronts.
Many US aquacultured species are listed as Seafood Watch “Best Choices” because they are farmed in environmentally friendly ways. Aquaculture can be a means to enhance and restore commercial, recreational, and ecologically important species and habitats.