What aquaculture could mean for fish populations


Whitebar surgeonfish (Acanthurus leucopareius)

Aquaculture - a controversial topic due to concerns of the health and treatment of farmed fish - could become a sustainable food source and help preserve wild fish populations, writes EMILY FOLK

Not only does aquaculture supply the world with a food source, but it also creates jobs and supports local economies.

Fish farming could be useful for economies, hunger and wild fish populations.

Humans need protein to survive. Protein helps build muscle, bone and skin, and it also helps your body produce and repair tissue. Protein gives your body the energy it needs to function throughout the day, and assists in maintaining or losing weight. Protein also contributes to concentration and brain function.

Fish and seafood are excellent sources of protein because they are low in fat but high in protein and other vitamins and nutrients. They are also readily available to a variety of different cultures and economic groups. However, as the population increases and more people turn to fish for their dietary needs, the wild populations of fish species decreases. To combat this issue, fish farms have been developed.

Fish farms

Aquaculture has been around for a long time, with the earliest evidence dating to China in 1000 BCE.  While fish farming has changed and evolved, the practice is essentially the same: fish, mollusks or crustaceans are grown in controlled environments to be consumed as food.

Some of the most common species currently raised on fish farms include catfish, tilapia, salmon and carp, along with shrimp, crayfish, crabs, scallops, oysters and clams.

Not only does aquaculture supply the world with a food source, but it also creates jobs and supports local economies. The fish farms in Africa help sustain a nutritional diet and provide employment to locals.

If done correctly, it can also have minor impacts on the environment and be a sustainable practice that helps wild fish species rebound from overfishing. It also reduces the amount of bycatch that occurs with some fishing practices. Bycatch is the accidental capture of species that aren’t being fished for, including turtles and dolphins, which impacts their populations.

Anyone can develop a fish farm. The practice isn't limited to commercial businesses with huge budgets and large fish tanks. Individuals can raise fish in their backyards, much like growing your own garden. Like large-scale farming, backyard fish farms provide the necessary protein for you and your family and a sustainable way to raise fish that doesn’t have a significant impact the environment.

Not only does aquaculture supply the world with a food source, but it also creates jobs and supports local economies.

Environmental impacts

With dwindling wild populations of fish species, fish farms are a sustainable way to feed the world the protein their bodies need. Fish farms are viewed both negatively and positively, and they aren’t the perfect solution — yet.

There are concerns that some industries overcrowd their tanks, which can lead to disease. There are also concerns that the antibiotics and steroids that the fish populations receive will impact human health.

Some other questions experts have raised include what happens to wild fish populations when fish farms are in pens in the open ocean. There are concerns that disease can spread from the penned fish to wild populations or that if farmed fish escape, they can change the biodiversity of an ecosystem.

These concerns are legitimate and worth studying to determine if there are ways to mitigate them. Technology and science are advancing so fish farms are environmentally friendly, sustainable and reduce impacts on wild fish populations and the environment.

There’s always room for improvement, and as humans become more knowledgeable about fish farming practices, this industry will continue to improve. In turn, this will help wild fish populations — and other marine creatures — so that they aren’t overfished or turned into bycatch.

There isn’t a perfect solution to the issue of protecting our planet and finding a way to feed an increasing population. Humans have done a lot of damage to the environment and wild animal populations beyond fish. However, with the implementation of fish farms, it is one industry that’s trying to reduce the environmental impact and find a healthy, sustainable way to feed the world.

This Author

Emily Folk is a conservation and sustainability writer and the editor of Conservation Folks.

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