Friday, March 17, 2006

Family Farms - Sustainable Aquaculture

Much of what we read in the mainstream media today, concerning Aquaculture and the issues of sustainability is generally focused upon large scale farming activities. Without arguing the pro’s and con’s of large scale aqua farms (that’s a topic for another discussion) I feel the need to point out that small scale family farming or even subsistent aquaculture activities are often overlooked by the media.

Perhaps practicing aquaculture to diversify the survival opportunity available to the family farm or farming fish to create food to eat isn’t as newsworthy or as "sensational" a debate as the debates of “corporate farming, versus “eat wild fish” campaigns are. None the less, Aqua Farming as a way of life is beyond a shadow of a doubt important in many cultures and many countries, and has been for centuries.

Aqua farming has for many centuries played an important role in the continuation of family owned farms or small scale enterprises in many parts of the world. In numerous cultures fish farming has made an important contribution to ensuring the continual supply of wholesome food for thousands of families and communities. Indeed a great portion of the present day farmed fish production is still undertaken to supplement food supplies.

In developing countries and/or low-income food-deficit countries aquaculture has been growing steadily at an average rate of about 10 percent per year since 1970. Why? Fish farming has been practiced for thousands of years as a means of reducing the time and effort associated with hunting food. Much of today's farming activity is still taking place in the same areas as it was 1000’ s of years ago.

Aqua farming continues to reduce the reliance on the hunting and gathering of aquatic creatures and plants. Perhaps there is a message in this, considering that the FAO estimates that the cost of catching fish in the wild, on a global basis, is about 25% higher than the value of the catch.

Contary to mainstream belief the majority of the world’s aqua farmers, do not attempt to by pass the rules of nature, they seek to enhance them. It has been long realized and understood that without enhancement or farm production many of the world’s fish populations would have already succumbed to our demands.

Fish farming is based upon a similar need and demand, that brought about the reasoning behind the farming of any plant or animal. In simple terms farming came to pass because the the food supply and the requirements to support us were out of balance. Humankind couldn’t hunt enough food so we realized that some of that food had to be grown.

Today we know for certain that the wild fish stocks cannot support the food demand placed upon them, thus mankind has been negated to enhance our fish resources.

Like it or not, it is a fact of life, most of the controversy surrounding fish farming doesn’t have a terrible amount of importance to the person that grows fish to eat, nor the person that has witnessed a collapse of a wild fishery that was their traditional family livelihood.

Catching wild stocks without giving anything back is called fishing without regard! The sum of which doesn’t compute. Keep fishing , cross you fingers that the fish will come back.

Catch what we can, then sell the catch. Just how is that more sustainable than families growing fish to eat? Or the small farmer that serves a fresh product to local customers?

If the world relied upon wild fish stocks alone, we would have been responsible for eliminating most fish stocks 10 – 20- years ago.

Family farming of fish is a positive answer to the concerns and issues of sustainability.

We only need to look at small farms that raise fish as an alternative crop in a land based farm. Many use aquaponics where the waste nutrients produced by the fish is used to grow other crops without using chemical fertilizers. Then we can begin to understand that Aquaculture is and can be a much different activity than what we read about in the mainstream media.

Look at a family farm operated by people that want to keep their land and want to be proud in delivering a quality product. You’ll find that many have a near zero impact upon the environment

Many family farms today have been started and continue on the same principles, and yes they survive. They just don't make the waves of media.

Aquaculture Information Website

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