Aquaculture, or aquafarming, is the raising, breeding, and harvesting of fish, shellfish, and other aquatic plants. It is the controlled cultivation of marine animals and plants, which serves as a source of food. Moreover, in aquafarming, the aquatic organisms are provided with healthier habitats to rebuild threatened or endangered species stocks.
Although aquaculture is a widely known marine business venture, there are things that you still don’t know about it. Here is a list of things you should know about aquaculture.
Aquaculture is Just for Fish
You would be surprised to know that several aqua farmers don’t really raise fish, even if the industry’s image is all about fish farming. As a matter of fact, oysters were the most commercially valuable farmed marine species recently, followed by clams. Other top marine products are shrimps, mussels, and salmon.
More Than Half of the World’s Seafood Supply is From Aquaculture
Aquaculture is among the fastest-growing forms of food production and management. In fact, according to the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization, global marine and freshwater aquaculture production rose by 52.7% between 1990 and 2018.
While most of that production occurred outside the United States, farmed products still make up a large portion of North America’s seafood diet. The continent imports more than 85% of seafood, and half of that is from aquafarming.
Farmed Seafood is Abundant in Omega 3s
Experts recommend eating at least two servings of 4-ounce seafood a week because it is a natural source of omega-3 fatty acids.
Omega 3 fats are unsaturated fats that our body needs to stay healthy. It has ALA (alpha linolenic acid), EPA (eicosapentaenoic acid) and DHA (docosahexaenoic acid) that can help safeguard our heart and blood vessels from diseases. Furthermore, they can help improve blood circulation, prevent blood clots, lower triglycerides, lower blood pressure, and keep the rhythm of your heart steady.
The level of omega 3 fatty acids in fish relies on what that fish ate while alive. Therefore, different marine species have different levels. Two servings of a similar wild-caught fish might also have particular omega 3 content depending on where the fish lived and when caught. For cultured fish, feed is the most significant contributor to a fish’s omega 3 content. Many fish farmers work hard to match or even exceed the levels found in wild marine creatures.
Aquaculture is an Efficient Way to Produce Protein
All cultured animals have to eat; however, fish need a lot less food than most. This is because they are cold-blooded and live in a rich environment. As a result, it takes a little more than a pound of feed to make a pound of salmon. Just imagine, approximately twice as much feed is needed to produce a pound of chicken, and having a pound of beef requires somewhere around 9 pounds of feed.
This is one reason aquaculture can meet the protein needs of a growing global population with less of a demand for limited natural resources like farmable land and freshwater.
Antibiotic Use is Very Limited
It is a given that when raising animals, treating disease with medicine is needed. Still, aquaculture drug use is strictly limited by the FDA, and the application of antibiotics for anything other than treating disease is against the law.
Note that antibiotics are regarded as a method of last resort for controlling bacterial diseases. This is why fish farmers rely mostly on responsible management practices, including proper siting, limited density, and high-quality diets to healthily raise fish and other marine creatures.
Supports Coastal Economies
As aquaculture expands worldwide, the industry creates multiple jobs, fosters resilient coastal communities, and provides new international trade opportunities. Moreover, aquaculture can implement significant economic opportunities for everyone as the domestic and global demand for seafood grows.
Fish farmers are now embracing the concept of floating fish farm, where farms are made by floating netted closures of plastic floaties or interconnected wooden pathways and platforms.
Sustainable Aquaculture Builds Up Ecosystems
The benefits of sustainable marine aquafarming go beyond food production. For example, oyster farms carry out valuable habitats for juvenile fish and invertebrate communities. Also, they change some locations’ flat, featureless bottoms into complex habitats that attract species seeking food and shelter.
Shellfish aquaculture can also improve water quality. Clams, oysters, and other shellfish eat by filtering nutrients from the water. As a result, they put out excess nitrogen from ecosystems, which prevents an overgrowth of algae that can lead to dead zones.
Aquaculture is Essential to Restoration Efforts
Natural scientists and resource managers depend on hatcheries to restore coastal habitats and rebuild wild populations. The method is known as restoration of aquaculture, which involves cultivating marine animals and plants to one day transplant them into the wild.
For instance, scientists completed the first release of white abalone developed in captivity off California last November 2019. The release was a crucial step towards bringing endangered white abalone back from the brink of extinction.
In a nutshell, aquaculture is not simply about putting up a business venture to earn profit. It can also be a means of restoring the marine culture of plants and animals.