Is Aquaculture Good or Bad?
A lot of people ask us when buying seafood, is aquaculture good or bad? Is aquaculture sustainable?
While aquaculture promises a consistent supply of seafood, not all fish farming is created equal. Here's the rundown of the main problems associated with aquaculture and what some operations have done to mitigate and make fish farming a great sustainable option:
Problem #1: Use of Wild Fish in Farming Operations: Wild fish, such as anchovies and sardines, are frequently used to feed farmed fish, further depleting wild fish populations. According to the Monterey Bay Aquarium Seafood Watch program, a single salmon requires “over three pounds of wild fish for every pound of weight it gains.” Solution: Species such as catfish and tilapia eat a very small amount of fish, making them great candidates for aquaculture. Certain kinds of shellfish, such as oysters and mussels, are also perfect candidates, as they collect their own food by filtering the water actually cleaning the ocean!
Problem #2: Pollution of the Water: Just as pollution into the surrounding environment is a serious problem when cattle and chickens are raised, it is also a serious problem in aquaculture operations. Fish waste, pesticide and antibiotic residues, and even diseases pollute the surrounding waters, potentially harming or killing wild fish and plants. In addition, farmed fish can escape into the wild, becoming invasive species. The escapees breed with wild fish, passing on genes that have been genetically modified and that can be potentially harmful. Solution: Closed containment operations do not release wastewater into the surrounding environment or allow for fish to escape.
Problem #3: Habitat Destruction: This is particularly a problem when coastal mangrove forests are cleared to make way for large-scale shrimp farming. After a few years, the build-up of waste and pollution causes farmers to leave their current sites, clear more mangroves, and move their operations. This contributes to the worldwide loss of mangrove forests and threatens the many plants and animals that depend on the mangroves for their habitats. Solution: Inland ponds, or recirculating water ponds, are a great option. This is being done well here in the States and is quickly spreading worldwide.
So aquaculture can be good or bad, it just depends how the specific operation. Please be sure to check out the Monterey Bay Aquarium Seafood Watch program to help you choose the most sustainable types of farmed fish!