Aquaculture is a distinct farming method that involves the rearing, breeding, and harvesting of algae, fish, and similar organisms. This farming technique can take place in every type of water environment. The two primary types of aquaculture include cultivating aquatic plants for food and rearing aquatic animals. These animals can be raised in freshwater or marine water, the latter of which includes estuaries and oceans. When cultivating aquatic plants for food, it’s possible to grow certain plants that can be used as a source of food. Likely the most common form of aquaculture involves farming species of aquatic animals that exist in marine waters.

The main species that are found in marine waters include mussels, shrimp, salmon, clams, sea bass, and oysters. This is also the aspect of aquaculture that the NOAA places their primary focus on. The NOAA is a scientific agency within the U.S. that monitors the conditions of major waterways, oceans, and the atmosphere. One area of focus for the NOAA is the promotion of sustainable farming within the oceans. Sustainability has become increasingly important all over the world for the protection and maintenance of the environment. There are many sustainable practices that are being implemented by farmers.

For instance, crop farmers have implemented modern and sustainable farming techniques that include xeriscape gardening and vertical farming. Xeriscape gardening centers around making sure that the need for irrigation is reduced or eliminated altogether. On the other hand, vertical farming involves growing crops in layers that are stacked vertically, which optimizes plant growth. This article goes into detail about farming aquatic plants for food in a sustainable manner that’s friendly to the environment.

Pros and Cons of Aquaculture

aquacultureWhen you’re looking into aquaculture, there are numerous pros and cons of this farming method that you should be aware of.

Pros of Aquaculture

Aquaculture is a largely fantastic farming technique that allows farmers to grow aquatic plants in a sustainable manner. Compared to other farming methods, there are a wide range of benefits that come with aquaculture.

Highly Flexible Farming Method

Likely the best aspect of aquaculture is that it’s a highly flexible method of farming. Farms can be developed in any location where a body of water exists. Tanks can be placed on the seafloor, on land, in rivers, and in lakes. Keep in mind that different plant species can be combined within a single tank, which lessens the amount of space that you need when cultivating sustainable aquatic plants.

Can Be a Source of Food for Marine Species and People

Fish species and seafood are more in demand than ever. Aquaculture can accommodate this increasing demand by facilitating a continuous food supply. Many farms that have been developed as a part of aquaculture will become sources of food for restaurants that provide dishes of salmon, prawns, and other types of seafood. When growing aquatic plants, there are a wide range of different plant species that can be used as food.

Reduces Waste Materials

Since aquaculture systems are able to recirculate water, waste material is reduced, reused, and recycled. The act of recycling waste materials is healthy for the environment as well as the fish.

Provides a Source of Income

Aquaculture opens up a significant number of job opportunities. For instance, the cages and tanks that are used with aquaculture need to be specially made in order to be placed in the middle of the ocean. The equipment that needs to be created for the aquaculture industry provide employment opportunities and a source of income to equipment manufacturers.

Cons of Aquaculture

While aquaculture systems are effective at cultivating sustainable aquatic plants for food, there are some downsides to these systems that you should understand.

Threatens Coastal Ecosystems

While aquaculture will typically help to reduce and recycle waste, it’s also possible for waste to be produced depending on the exact farming technique that’s being used. With marine aquaculture, waste materials can sink to the bottom of the sea, which harms the habitats of the species that live there.

Can Cause an Increase of Invasive Species

During aquaculture, the introduction of invasive species to the water could result in food supplies being taken away from the species that require these supplies.

Can Negatively Impact Environment

The cages and tanks that are used with aquaculture are created with materials that can mainly be found in mangrove forests throughout Asia. If these forests continue to be disturbed and destroyed, they will no longer be able to serve as buffers to the natural disasters that occur around them, which might lead to more lives being lost when hurricanes and cyclones develop.

Can Contaminate Water

Because of the waste products that are produced by fish, any body of water that the aquaculture processes occur in can become contaminated. There are times when farmers will use chemicals and pesticides within their feeds, which only serves to add more pollution to the water. As such, it’s important to cultivate aquatic plants in a safe and sustainable manner.

Aquaculture Development

aquaculture fishIf you’re interested in using an aquaculture system, it’s important to know more about aquaculture development. Nearly 600 aquatic species are farmed throughout the world with aquaculture processes. Nearly all types of people and companies practice aquaculture today, which includes everyone from the poorest farmers to the largest companies. The aquatic plants that are cultivated through aquaculture are able to be used for nutritional and industrial purposes. In order for an aquaculture system to be sustainable, it needs to:

  • Promote job creation and additional wealth
  • Manage and maintain the health of the environment for all future generations
  • Ensure that costs and benefits are equitably shared
  • Make sure that the food produced through aquaculture is accessible and can be distributed to anyone

Aquaculture Feed and Fertilizer Resources Information System (AFFRIS)

One organization that’s integral to the aquaculture industry is the Aquaculture Feed and Fertilizer Resources Information System. This particular organization provides information on nutrient and feed resources that can be used to develop a feeding strategy. Every aquaculture sector must be made aware of:

  • What fertilizer and agricultural feed resources are available
  • Who is using these resources and how they are being used
  • The best uses for available feed resources
  • The status of the manufacturing industry for animal feed and the regulations that occur within this industry
  • The total expenses associated with the resources and any necessary transportation

This specific approach has been deemed necessary in order for countries to maximize the use of fertilizer and feed resources. This information system contains fertilizer and feed resources pertaining to aquaculture, the exact nutrient composition of all feed ingredients, and the nutrient requirements for each aquaculture species.

Regulations for Aquaculture

fish aquacultureSince there are some environmental and sustainability concerns with certain types of aquaculture, there are a number of important regulations that have been set within the aquaculture industry. It’s important to understand what these regulations are if you want to avoid being penalized for going against the regulations. At the moment, the regulations for aquaculture come in the form of the code of conduct for responsible fisheries, which has been created by the Committee of Fisheries in conjunction with the FAO. This committee aims to resolve all issues and problems that occur within the aquaculture industry. The code of conduct for responsible fisheries is designed to:

  • Develop efficient policies and frameworks to promote sustainable aquaculture development
  • Provide reporting on the status of aquaculture development as well as the aquaculture trends at global and regional levels
  • Promote aquaculture development that’s sustainable, which is particularly important in developing countries

The National Shellfish Initiative is another program that strives to increase the populations of shellfish in coastal waters via conservation activities and commercial production. The main focus is on shellfish aquaculture and the science and research surrounding shellfish populations. This initiative continues to grow and is currently supported by California, North Carolina, and a number of other states.

Aquaculture Research

The aquaculture industry is advancing at a continual rate, which is mainly due to the NOAA and the science center that they manage. The NOAA science center is focused on studying marine life and protecting the environments surrounding each location that the center operates in. There are currently six science centers around the world that monitor marine life, the primary of which include the Southwest Fisheries Science Center and the Northwest Fisheries Science Center. These centers are located in Seattle, WA and La Jolla, CA respectively. Each center conducts research that’s pertinent to the nearby bodies of water and the marine life within.

You can learn more about what’s going on today in the aquaculture industry by taking a look at this research story map. The map displays information about all ongoing projects, of which there are currently 78 that you can look through. These projects include everything from improving oyster culture to studying the effects of dietary taurine on marine fish. Aquaculture is a growing industry that provides farmers with an array of benefits. While standard aquaculture practices can introduce waste to certain bodies of water, it’s possible to practice aquaculture sustainably, which should eliminate waste production and protect the environment.