Friday, June 22, 2012

Sustainability and Aquaculture

People have been farming fish for thousands of years. Today, a wide range of plants and animals are grown in aquaculture farms both on a commercial scale and subsistence level. As a result of the growing world population and a shift in western societies towards healthier eating patterns commercial scale fish farming has had to expand to fill the need for fresh fish and seafood. Aquaculture is well suited to meeting this increasing demand for seafood. Out of need, we realized as a society, centuries ago, that we could not sustain ourselves with hunting and gathering of land foods. Much the same today, we must also face the very same facts when it comes to harvest of the waters.

Commercial scale fish farmers and western consumers are not the only beneficiaries of increased aquaculture production. Several low-income food-deficit countries are big aquaculture producers. In these countries aquaculture contributes to poverty alleviation and to the enhanced supply of fish products to poor people in rural and urban areas.

In addition to the massive direct food production benefits, fish farming technologies also play a supporting role to the wild fishery by making possible fish restocking and enhancement activities and by filling a complimentary niche in export markets. Indeed the sharp decline in some “wild fish Stocks” is mitigated in part by supplemental production of young seed stock in hatcheries.

The inherent efficiencies of farming versus fishing for the wild catch (hunting) will continue to further a progressive switch from fishing to fish farming. In the late 1990’s the FAO estimated that the cost of catching fish in the wild, on a global basis, was already about 25% higher than the true value of the catch. Much of the difference was made up in subsidies and other forms of financial support.

Alternative Production Methods and Advancements in Aquaculture

Land based aquaculture is a food sector that is sustainable, renewable and provides safe high quality food products to consumers while creating considerable benefits for the general population. Based on science and technology, it is a market driven sector that has emerged to provide consumers with value, taste and convenience in consumption of seafood and other Aquatic products similar to that expected from other food commodities.

Aqua Farming requires clean growing waters to maintain a satisfactory level of production. Therefore, the industry has to encourage environmentally friendly practices and has taken many practical steps to protect the local environment. In fact without ensuring protection of the environment, the industry itself would flounder. Such safeguards include government measures controlling the introduction of new species and the transfer of fish, fish health protection, better site selection, and actions to minimize fish escapes and prevent waste discharges.

Land based fish farms that utilize technology to recycle and reuse water supplies and to prevent waste discharge and fish escapement are among the most eco-friendly and sustainable methods of aquaculture. Farms that incorporate water recirculation aquaculture systems into their design are proven to be the most eco-friendly of all commercial fish farms.

Taking these systems one step further involves the incorporation of polyculture techniques, where plant crops are grown with the nutrients produced by the fish crop. This is known as Aquaponics a farming technique that is becoming more common in the design of both small and larger scale farms. Land based farms using Aquaponics is one of the most promising of alternative aquaculture practices.

Aquaculture books and reference materials.

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