In the past few posts, we have been talking mainly about seafood obtained through fishing. However, we must not forget about aquaculture which contributes largely to meet rising demands for seafood.
Mainly in response to the implications of overfishing, aquaculture gained momentum in the 21st century and in 2016, food fish production by aquaculture amounted to 80 million tonnes (source). The upside is, since the late 1980s, fish production via capture has remained relatively stagnant whereas aquaculture has been on a steady increase and, according to the Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO), it accounts for 47% of global fish production in 2016. Currently, one-quarter of all fish consumed by us is the product of aquaculture.
Now you may wonder, what’s so great about aquaculture?
Aquaculture is the aquatic equivalent of the hotly discussed topic of agriculture in class. This suggests the presence of human intervention in order to increase production (source). The benefits of aquaculture are numerous and they include:
- Of course, the tremendous increase in seafood production
- More job opportunities
- Lower environmental impacts as compared to production by capture
- It can happen anywhere and everywhere! (here’s a video on fish farming in Uganda.)
Does it seem like aquaculture is a one-shot-problem-solved for the increasing demand for seafood?
Well, we all know that life is never a bed of roses. There’s no such thing as a ‘Pareto improvement’ when we continually demand from nature.
The diversity of production systems leads to an underlying paradox: aquaculture is a possible solution, but also a contributing factor, to the collapse of fisheries stocks worldwide. (source)
Aquaculture may have many benefits but along with it throngs a list of impacts. Overuse of chemicals such as antibiotics, escapees can interbreed with wild populations altering the genetic pool, the spread of disease, and it goes on… (source)
Intensive farming (the higher the intensity, the more controlled the environment) allows humans to manipulate the fish’s breeding cycle – controlling when the fish spawns and its frequency – and also produces way more fish in a relatively small area. Its high stocking density is coupled with increased waste generation and risk of disease transmission. Other than its environmental impacts, overcrowding has also sparked discussions regarding ethics.