Seafood is one of the most popular sources of protein worldwide. Fish farming/ aquaculture has been one of the oldest forms of agriculture practiced by human beings. Signs of aquaculture around the world have been very common, from the ancient Chinese fish ponds to the pre-Columbian fish traps in basins of the Amazon; fish farming has been practiced for hundreds of years. Today, a wide variety of fish are farmed in ponds, both fresh water and salt water fish, including salmon, carp, catfish, trout, shrimp, tilapia, koi, mussels, oysters, and also a variety of crustaceans, and mollusks. Some fish spend their entire lives in a fish farm, while others are caught and kept in the farms to grow.
Effects of harvesting wild fish
The recent pressure on wild fishing and its effects on wild fish stock have been devastating. The decline in species of fish such as cod, red snappers, and sea bass has made the environmentalists and ecologists sound an alarm as over fishing and exploiting the oceans can have negative impacts on the world supply of fish. Aquaculture and fish farming was seen as a way to meet the growing demands of seafood and supply of fish worldwide, while allowing the wild fish stock to regenerate. Today, over 70% of all wild fish stocks are over-fished or fully exploited.
Aquaculture and world fish supplies
There has been a steady growth in fish farming in the past 15 years, which was seen as a blessing by many in meeting the global protein demands, and contributing to global fish supplies. Aquaculture is also seen as a way to relieve the pressure on wild fisheries, restoring the over-fished stocks in the oceans as the world population continues to grow; there will always be dependence on farmed fish. It is estimated that we will need over 40 million tons of fish per year by 2030. Currently 40% of all fish consumed by humans comes from aquaculture fish. Thousands of fish farmers and fisheries around the world also depend on aquaculture as their primary source of income. Fishermen are not only found in the coastal regions, but also found inland, near rivers and lakes or ponds where fish could thrive, in natural settings, as well as artificial tanks and ponds.
The aquaculture sector is the fastest growing industry in the agricultural sector, producing over $78 billion globally. Total production of aquaculture seafood in the USA is worth about $1.2 billion annually. China is the biggest supplier of seafood globally. It produced about 115 billion pounds of fish in 2006, and shipped globally.
Aquaculture farming concerns
Aquaculture farming can be profitable and a way to increase seafood supply globally, if the aquaculture is done in the right way. For some types of farming, it could also increase global concerns and environmental impacts. Several negative factors are given below.
Wild fish inputs as feed
Aquaculture fish farms must reduce its dependency on fish oil and fish feed from wild fish sources. Also, farming carnivorous fish requires a large input of wild fish. Fish caught form wild fisheries to make fish feed or fish oil will put additional pressure on the world’s wild fish stock.
Ecological balance and sustainability
Chemicals used in treating the farmed fish may negatively impact the environment and ecosystem. Many fish farmers also tend to alter the natural habitat of the fish in the coastal areas, destroying the natural balance of ecosystems. For example, the complex ecological balance of mangrove forests is often destroyed in coastal areas where shrimp is farmed.
“It is believed that the loss of coastal wetlands along the Mississippi Delta contributed to the enormous devastation from Hurricane Katrina.” – Encyclopedia Britannica
Many fish farmers crowd fish too closely together in their artificial environment. Polluted water containing feces, food waste, and dead fish is often flushed into nearby bodies of water, causing pollution and health hazards to wild populations of fish.
Use of chemicals and antibiotics
Using excessive chemicals for treating bacteria, fungus, or parasites and using antibiotics to control diseases can negatively impact human health and can have unwanted consequences.
Escaped farmed fish will compete with similar species of wild fish, interbreed with local wild fish population and alter the overall genetic diversity.
The intent of aquaculture fish farming is to compensate for the shortfall in ocean harvests, add to the supply of global fish, and to restore the wild fish population. However, some aquaculture systems also diminish the supplies of wild fish through wild seed-stock collection, feeding wild fish to the carnivores, habitat modification, and other ecological impacts. Better management of fish farming will ensure both the sustainability of the environment as well as increase sea food supply globally. Strict regulations must be enforced to ensure safety of consumers.
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Source: WorldWide Aquaculture