Sustainable aquaculture could be the key to feeding our growing population. Currently, 42% of the seafood we consume is farmed, but there are no regulations that constitute what “good” aquaculture is yet. Unfortunately, there are many unsustainable aquaculture practices, like taking too many wild fish out of the ocean in order to feed farmed fish. This initiative is meant to help fund projects that will expand and improve aquaculture. This could be the key to food security, but first, aquaculture needs to become safer, cleaner, and more sustainable.
We don’t normally associate fish and the ocean with farming but soon we will due because wild fish stocks are declining on a global level. Every year we catch 170 billion pounds of wild fish and shellfish. And, 42% of the seafood we consume now being supplied by aquaculture, how/where those fish are raised is becoming increasingly important for our growing population and food security.
Aquaculture makes a substantial contribution to our food supplies, so it must be done in a way that is sustainable. Unfortunately, there are currently no accepted standards for what defines “good” aquaculture. Some of the main concerns about aquaculture are the extraction of many wild fish from the oceans that are used to feed farmed fish. These farmed fish sometimes require unsustainable amounts of wild fish, and too many wild juveniles might be taken from the wild, inhibiting future stock growth. Aquaculture can also lead to the release of organic wastes into the ocean, which can cause harmful algal blooms. Only species that can be herbivorous or filter-feeders, breed in captivity, and don’t produce a huge amount of nutrient output are sustainable.
As for aquaculture techniques, various closed-system technologies, including re-circulating tanks, raceways, and flow-through systems are usually the best. These systems are being used for numerous species of fish, shellfish, and aquatic plants. As long as the water is treated before being discharged and none of the fish escape, these are sustainable options. Open pens have environmental and food safety flaws and are not sustainable. In these pens it is hard to address the problems of fecal waste, interactions with predators, introduction of non-native/exotic species, excess inputs (food, antibiotics), habitat destruction, and disease transfer.
Our Sustainable Aquaculture Initiative provides grants to projects that focus on expanding and improving the way we farm fish sustainably, as well as providing food security and safer, cleaner food. There is still a lot to learn about this approach and how to best utilize it to feed our growing population.
Aquaculture makes a substantial contribution to our food supplies, so it must be done in a way that is sustainable.