Also referred to as shellfish farming or fish farming, aquaculture is considered an industrial process to rear, stock and breed different marine species, both in freshwater and oceans, to be used for different purposes such as commercial consumption. These different species include shellfish, plants, crustaceans, mollusks, fish eggs and sea vegetables.
There are two kinds of aquaculture: marine and freshwater. The former refers to culturing of marine species from the ocean. These include shrimps, mussels, clams, oysters, sea bass and salmon while the latter has something to do with producing species that usually live in ponds, lakes and rivers. These are the bass, catfish, tilapia and trout. There is also one form of aquaculture that is known as stock restoration in which shellfish and hatchery fish are brought to the wild so they can reproduce and replenish wild population.
Although there have no written records, it is believed that aquaculture had its beginnings around 2000 B.C. and was started by the Chinese. Since they migrated to different parts of the world, this practice was spread in other countries in Europe and Asia. In the last decade, aquaculture reached a global surge due to several factors, such as, increasing global demand for shrimps and prawns by developed countries, need for other options for fishermen and fear of reduction of marine population from over-fishing and effects of climate change that affect the bodies of water.
Aquaculture has also become controversial because despite its benefits, it is also criticized for its drawbacks. Let us discuss some of the arguments presented by supporters and critics.
List of Pros of Aquaculture
1. Source of Food for People and Marine Species
Proponents for aquaculture posit that this practice is an effective solution to meet the increasing demand for seafood and other fish species. With aquaculture, consumers will be assured of continuous food supply. Also, this also becomes the source of food establishments and restaurants that serve seafood like prawns, clams and salmon, among others. Moreover, some fish species are also cultured to be fed to carnivorous fish species.
2. Source of Income
Supporters of Aquaculture claim that this gives livelihood to fishermen and other people since it opens job opportunities. Fish producers usually use fish tanks and cages that they put in the middle of the ocean to culture the fish. There are also fish producers who breed in ponds and cages in lakes. The process demands man power and thus, gives employment opportunities. For producers, on the other hand, this serves as a source of income since seafood is highly demanded commercially and delivered not only locally but also to other countries.
Advocates for aquaculture say that fish farms can be built and established anywhere where there is body of water. For marine aquaculture, tanks can be built and placed on the seafloor or be left hanging in columns while for freshwater aquaculture, tanks and cages can be built on-land as well as in lakes, rivers and artificial ponds.
4. Helps Waste Problems
Supporters of this practice claim that re-circulating aquaculture systems is also a big help in reducing, reusing and recycling waste materials that is healthy not only for the cultured species of fish but also to the environment.
List of Cons of Aquaculture
1. Propagation of Invasive Species
Critics of aquaculture say that despite the good intentions of culturing fish for consumption and increase the population of fish, it can also lead to the increase population of invasive species that are harmful to the other marine species because they take away the food supply for fishes in the wild. The Janitor fish, for one, is considered a threat to other freshwater species since they breed faster and compete with other fishes for food.
2. Threat to Coastal Ecosystems
Opponents of the practice of aquaculture argue that this method does not help in recycling wastes but instead cause it. An example is the culturing of salmon which is done in pristine coastal waters. This results to the pollution of the bodies of water because the discharged waste of salmon is disposed to the aquatic environment. For marine aquaculture, on the other hand, results to wastes sinking in the bottom of the sea that can harm the homes of species living there.
3. Contaminates Water and Threatens Health
People who are not in favor of aquaculture and eating fish harvested from this method say that since fish farms can be built basically in any body of water, the chances for water contamination are higher since waste products from the fish can stay in the water which is sometimes used for drinking by people in poor communities. Some of these wastes can enter water systems and can contaminate drinking water in the homes. As for health issues, critics say that some fish producers use antibiotics and artificial supplements to hasten the growth of fish. Also, fish food can also be contaminated with pesticides and chemicals that are in the feeds. This can affect people who will buy from commercially cultured fish products.
4. Affects Wild Fish Population
Another drawback of the practice of aquaculture is the need for wild fish to be fed to culture fish like salmon. Opponents say that it takes more than just an ample amount of wild fish to feed one salmon for commercial consumption. This can result to diminished supply of wild fish that can affect the population as well as the continuity of marine life.
5. Impact on the Environment
Skeptics about aquaculture are concerned of the changes in the habitat that need to be made to build fish cages and tanks. There have been areas with mangrove forests in parts of Asia like China and Vietnam that have been disturbed to give way to these fish farms and other types of industries. With the destruction of mangroves, there will be no buffers to the effects of natural disasters. If this happens, destruction of properties and loss of lives can happen during cyclones and hurricanes.
Aquaculture will continue to be popular in many countries especially with the growing demand of commercial fish products. Although there are drawbacks to this industry, there have also been developments to mitigate the concerns brought about by aquaculture.
Brandon Miller has a B.A. from the University of Texas at Austin. He is a seasoned writer who has written over one hundred articles, which have been read by over 500,000 people. If you have any comments or concerns about this blog post, then please contact the Green Garage team here.