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Aquaculture growth: The "double-edged sword"

3 commentsBy Kacey Culliney , 20-Aug-2012
Last updated on 20-Aug-2012 at 14:41 GMT

With fish consumption rates soaring and wild fishing stagnating, efforts must be pumped into the sustainable growth of aquaculture, a new report suggests.

Aquaculture produces around 50% of fish consumed globally and this is set to surge to 60% by 2020, according to the report Aquaculture Tries to Fill World’s Insatiable Appetite for Seafood by US research firm Worldwatch Institute. But there are concerns about its environmental safety too.

Human fish consumption has soared by 14.4% over the past five years, it said, with 130.8m tonnes eaten in 2011. Consumption of farmed fish has risen tenfold since 1970.

Europe represents the second largest fish farming market producing 9.2% of the global fish supply in 2010. Asia remains the globe’s largest farmed fishing and consumption market; eating two thirds of fish caught or grown for consumption.

Danielle Nierenberg, co-author of the report and director of Worldwatch’s Nourishing the Planet project, said: “To maintain the current level of fish consumption in the world, aquaculture will need to provide an additional 23 million tons of farmed fish by 2020.”

However, while it is clear that aquaculture is crucial to feeding the globes “insatiable appetite” for seafood, “growth in fish farming can be a double-edged sword,” Nierenberg added.

“If aquaculture continues to grow without constraints, it could lead to degradation of land and marine habitats, chemical pollution from fertilisers and antibiotics, the negative impacts of invasive species, and a lessened fish resistance to disease due to close proximity and intensive farming practices,” she said.

R&D efforts a must

Fish farming has been expanding steadily for the past 25 years and spiked 6.2% in 2011, the report said, while wild capture has “stagnated”.

“Fisheries and aquaculture in the future will be heavily affected by a growing population and increasing fish consumption, by economic pressures on scarce natural resources, and by climate change,” the co-author said.

“More research and development is needed to find affordable replacements for fishmeal and terrestrial products in aqua feeds,” Nierenberg said.

Alternatives put forward in the report include nutrient waste streams and by-products from terrestrial agriculture including plant oilseed and legume meals and cereal by-products.

“Policymakers, fishers and consumers need to find alternative sources for fish feed, combat illegal fishing, encourage more sustainable practices in aquaculture, acknowledge the potential effects of climate change on the oceans, and think critically about what and how much fish to consume,” she said. 

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3 comments (Comments are now closed)

What salmon aquaculture does

The 700,000 overcrowded salmon in our bay put an immense amount of feces into the water. The lice problem is legendary in Charlotte County. When Cooke’s treated the fish with peroxide, which they did many times, the whole bay would smell very odd and sick for days. Our beautiful bay that should be so full of life has nothing moving in it. I have seen huge changes in this small bay, the red necked grebes that always came like clockwork did not come this year, The kingfishers that nested here are gone. No porpoises come here now, no minke whales come here now, no mackerel jump in season here any more. No baby pollock live in the shallow water any more. No krill pile up on the beaches in the fall any more. No osprey dive for fish here any more. No salmon leap, no tuna jump, no basking sharks cruise by, no herring boil the water, no jellyfish come up on the beaches. No eiders dive; the loons that come by do not linger, neither do the visiting seabirds. Our whales, porpoise and herring are struggling. A disturbed environment, with reduced food sources kills biodiversity. Controls on aquaculture are not working, despite all claims to the contrary. We are losing herring, lobster, feed, and the species that feed on them to pesticides. The whole area is overloaded with waste, chemicals, pesticides and other by- products. This is nuts. There is no meaningful oversight.

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Posted by Joyce Morrell
29 August 2012 | 02h12

Sustainable Aquaculture

More aquaculture is needed all over the world, because we cannot feed the growing world population without farming our water, yet, few "constraints" are needed on individual fish farmers, as the fastest way to turn any human into an ecologist super-concerned about water quality is to get them engaged in keeping their own investment in livestock alive in that very same water.
Usually, the most unsustainable farming practices are perpetrated by corporate farms that make all of their production decisions based upon quarterly reports.

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Posted by Larry M. Aden
20 August 2012 | 21h56

Constaints?

The comment "if aquaculture continues to grow without constraints" requires a response. There is simply nowhere that commercial aquaculture is practiced where it is not regulated - and often very tightly so.

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Posted by Dr Fish
20 August 2012 | 13h48