Aquaculture is the fastest growing animal food producing sector in the world. It has generated growth of almost 8% per annum over the past 50 years, approximately twice the rate of global gross domestic product (GDP) growth during this period. From output of about 1 million tonne a year in the 1950’s, aquaculture now produces almost 100 million tonne of product per annum. Globally, fish today provides more than 2 billion people with almost 20% of their average per capita intake of animal protein, and 4 billion people with 15% of such protein. The average global citizen consumes nearly 20 kilograms of fish per year.
Aquaculture has provided for the rapidly increasing consumer demand for fish and served to protect wild fisheries. Over the past 20 years, largely over exploited and fully exploited wild fisheries haven’t produced an increased volume of fish products. Aquaculture has accommodated all of the global demand growth over this period by adding approximately 70 million tonnes of annual production capacity. In 2014, aquaculture surpassed wild fisheries as the dominant source of seafood products.
With existing forecasts for population growth and per capita consumption of fish products, the aquaculture industry will need to triple in size or add another 200 million tonnes of annual output by 2050. This industry profile provides an enormous opportunity for businesses like Mainstream, who are pioneers in the efficient and environmentally sustainable production of fish.
Importance of Aquaculture
All over the world, the demand for seafood has increased because people have learned that seafoods as part of regular diets are healthier and help fight cardiovascular disease, cancer, alzheimer’s and many other major illnesses.
Aquaculture is currently estimated to account for approximately 13 percent (10.2 million t) of world fish production.source1
Aquaculture will add to wild seafood, and make it cheaper and accessible to all, especially in regions where there depend on imported seafood products.
Fish farms in regions without significant water bodies will provide additional job opportunities, as people will be involved in the entire business chain — researchers, breeders, fish food manufacturers, equipment manufacturers, marinas, storage facilities, processors, transportation and marketing companies as well as restaurants. Regions with poor soils and farming lands can also engage in aquaculture as a form of agriculture.
More than 100 million people — from farmers to fish processors and retailers—rely on the aquaculture industry for their livelihoods
Aquaculture business provides tax and royalty revenue to local governments. There is also potential revenue from exports.
There are real advancements in all types of aquaculture systems. Especially for offshore systems, there are bio-security systems, cameras and surveillance infrastructure, as well as trained inspectors who ensure that farms are complying by environmentally safe practices. This helps to reduce diseases transfer in the waters and so on.
Capture overfishing has been a major environmental issue. Aquaculture helps to reduce the reliance and impact on wild stock. The use of unsustainable fishing methods such as bottom trawlers is also reduced.
Aquaculture systems often take advantage of harvested runoffs, storm water and surface water. This reduces the need to depend on other sources of water supply. In addition to this, ponds maintain soil moisture in their vicinity thereby conserving natural resources.
Impacts of Aquaculture
Any activity that uses natural resources or interacts with the environment will potentially have issues relating to it. Aquaculture is no exception. Here are a few concerns about the practice:
Especially with intensive aquaculture farms, there is the issue of irresponsible waste (including uneaten food, body wastes and dead fish) discharge from the farms, which result in contamination of nearby water and soil. If chemicals, nutrients and foods dissolve in farm water, they cause eutrophication such waters come into contact with surrounding waters. This is known as nutrient. Organic residue that settles on the seabed may also cause alteration of seabed fauna and flora communities.
Wild stock may face food and mating competition or predators if farmed species get into the wild, either by intentional release or accidental escape. They can spread diseases and just like the concerns of GMO seeds, they may mix up with wild species and soon we will not be able to differentiate between wild stock and farmed species. They my also interbreed with wild stock and endanger some native species, threatening the entire ecosystem.
One good example of habitat destruction is from the creation of ponds for culturing marine shrimps. Thousands of hectares of mangroves and coastlands, which serve as nursery ground for many aquatic organisms have been destroyed in places such as Thailand, Vietnam and the Philippines. Mangroves also support many marine and terrestrial species, and also protect coastlines from storms.
Chemicals used to Control Diseases
To control bacteria, fungal, viral and other pathogenic matter, drugs and chemicals may be used on fish farms (ponds and cages). There is always a chance that these dissolved chemicals may get into contact with other aquatic organisms nearby. Too mush use of such drugs can also have an effect on humans who eat the fish.
About 430 (97%) of the aquatic species presently in culture have been domesticated since the start of the 20th century and the number of aquatic species domesticated is still rising rapidly. It was recently estimated that aquaculture provides 43% of all the fish consumed by humans today.
Fisheries products are the world’s most widely traded foods, with commerce dominated by developing countries. The total value of world capture fisheries production in 2009 was US$93.9 billion, a value greater than the global combined net exports of rice, coffee, sugar, and tea.
The second most consumed aquaculture species in the EU are salmon and mussel. Nine out of ten mussels eaten in the EU are actually farmed. Almost all of EU aquaculture production is consumed in Europe. Norway is the EU’s principal supplier of aquaculture products.
The United States imports (mostly from Asia) 91% of its seafood, about half of which is from aquaculture. This results in a large and growing annual seafood trade deficit of more than 10.4 billion.
Some 58.3 million people were engaged in the primary sector of capture fisheries and aquaculture in 2012. Of these, 37 percent were engaged full time. In 2012, 84 percent of all people employed in the fisheries and aquaculture sector were in Asia, followed by Africa (more than 10 percent). About 18.9 million were engaged in fish farming (more than 96 percent in Asia).