What Aquaculture Is and 5 Pathways to Success

The National Oceanic Atmospheric and Association (NOAA) defines aquaculture as “the breeding, rearing, and harvesting of fish, shellfish, plants, algae, and other organisms in all types of water environments”. Why do we need to breed, rear, and harvest fish? Because we simply eat a lot of seafood, and that can be stressful on our waters and the beings that live there. So, how can we make the most of aquaculture, so it continues to benefit us, as well as the environment? Here are five ideas.


1. Give incentives for sustainability.


Organizations like GlobalSalmonInitiative.org place a high priority on transparency in sustainability. Shouldn’t the farmers that comprise such coalitions be rewarded for their efforts? If they were, it would at least get the attention of those farms which have not yet optimized their sustainability practices. This is already catching on in government, with farms receiving free training, tax breaks, and more.


2. Adopt RAS.


Recirculating aquaculture systems (RAS) allow us to build lucrative, sustainable systems further inland. It can, in the most basic sense, operate as a home aquarium does, filtering the water used so it is 100% recycled. This mitigates many of the negative impacts that result from farming in and around existing, natural water bodies. As long as technology is adopted properly, this can prove to provide a very healthy environment for fish.


3. Rely on different types of fish for your everyday dietary needs.


We all love a fresh filet of salmon, and should absolutely have the means to enjoy it. But if we’re heavy fish-eaters, it’s best if we mainly eat low-trophic fish. “Trophic” refers to the food chain, and lower-lying fish like carp, tilapia, and catfish are much more sustainable than the predatory fish that are being depleted from the wild. By choosing fish that can be farmed without having to be fed wild fish that are decreasing in numbers, we’re doing our best to support successful aquaculture.


That said, there are also benefits associated with multi-trophic aquaculture systems.


4. Consider the surrounding area.


How has your county or region zoned the area where fish are being farmed? Are there enough regulations in place to prevent clustered farms from battling over resources, or hurting the local environment? If you’re looking to operate a farm, the zoning laws in the area you’re investigating matter a great deal in terms of sustainability and maintaining a healthy facility.


5. Update the farm.


Becoming more sustainable is usually (and rightfully) associated with a not-insignificant monetary investment. But the truth is, aquaculture cannot move forward unless we stay up to date with ways to mitigate environmental impacts and disease. Most importantly, the quality of your facility, right down to the feed, can dictate how much you’re able to produce.


Aquaculture is essential to feeding the world. It is also one of the best solutions to preserving wild fish populations in our planet’s rivers, lakes, and oceans. As aquaculture evolves, making sustainability a priority isn’t just an earth-conscious choice - it’s the wave of the future that propels our operations forward.