What is aquaculture?
Aquaculture is the controlled cultivation of aquatic organisms such as fish, shells and aquatic plants. Although it is not a common topic in media or education, aquaculture as an industry has been around for a while. Ancient Romans first started farming seafish and oysters (Alimentarium, 2017).
Aquaculture is divided between marine and freshwater aquaculture. The infrastructure for marine aquaculture is mostly situated in the ocean, while freshwater aquaculture relies on different systems. These are pond systems, integrated recycling system and raceways. Integrated recycling systems use large plastic tanks which are placed inside a greenhouse with hydroponic structures near the fish tanks (Integrated recycling system, n.a.). This allows for mutual production of plant and fish.
Raceways are shallow water tanks contain a high water flow (Freshwater Aquaculture, n.d.).
Aquaculture has four stages being hatchery, feed mills, farms and processing. The hatchery presents a phase of artificial breeding for aquatic animals and plants in their early stages. After the hatchery phase, fish are being transferred to fish farms. Feed mills present the infrastructure where the feed for fish is developed. We will cover this aspect in the paragraphs below.
Processing entails the processing of the grown fish, its packaging and distribution to the market.
Future in Aquaculture
One third of the global aquaculture production is marine aquaculture and aquaculture overall is one of the fastest growing food sectors (Froehlich et al., 2018). With that being said, aquaculture growth is not ultimate. It is influenced by different environmental aspects, such as acidification of oceans and overfishing.
On the other hand, Hambrey (2017) for FAO projects we will eat 20% more fish by 2030. These increasing numbers are a call for action. Fish is a healthy and relatively affordable protein source. With the growing aquaculture sector, fish can become one solution to growing population and its food demand. By using farmed fish, more support is given to controlled production and excessive wild fishing can be avoided.
What are the risks?
The risks of aquaculture is what makes it unsustainable. Most of the reasons are connected with the feed for fish. The feed may contain different antibiotics which are the main culprits for bacteria resistency.
Moreover, another risks are the potential contaminants fish feed contains like Salmonellae, mycotoxins, veterinary drug residues, agricultural and other chemicals (solvent residues, melamine), heavy metals (mercury, lead, cadmium) and excess mineral salts (hexavalent chromium, arsenic, selenium, flourine) (Tacon and Metian, 2008).
Ytrestøyl and colleagues (2015) highlighted in their paper how ingredients in Norwegian salmon feed fell fell from 90 to 30% of marine origin from 1990 to 2013.
Despite the possible risks, aquaculture can and should be sustainable by adapting the feed and minimizing the use of redundant antibiotics. Moreover, the efficiency of aquaculture depends on the species farmed, the intensity and the location of farming. By using infrastructure such as integrated recycling systems a mutually beneficial system is developed, giving a sustainable boost for both aquaculture and hydroponics.
Alimentarium. (2017, January 20). The history of aquaculture. Alimentarium.org; Alimentarium. https://www.alimentarium.org/en/knowledge/history-aquaculture
Integrated Recycling System. (n.d.). Www.msdaquaculture.com. Retrieved January 26, 2022, from https://www.msdaquaculture.com/integrated-recycling-system
Freshwater Aquaculture. (n.d.). Freshwater-Aquaculture.extension.org. https://freshwater-aquaculture.extension.org/raceways/
Froehlich, H. E., Gentry, R. R., & Halpern, B. S. (2018). Global change in marine aquaculture production potential under climate change. Nature Ecology & Evolution, 2(11), 1745–1750. https://doi.org/10.1038/s41559-018-0669-1
Hambrey, J. (2017). THE 2030 AGENDA AND THE SUSTAINABLE DEVELOPMENT GOALS: THE CHALLENGE FOR AQUACULTURE DEVELOPMENT AND MANAGEMENT [Review of THE 2030 AGENDA AND THE SUSTAINABLE DEVELOPMENT GOALS: THE CHALLENGE FOR AQUACULTURE DEVELOPMENT AND MANAGEMENT]. In FAO (pp. 1–73). FOOD AND AGRICULTURE ORGANIZATION OF THE UNITED NATIONS. www.fao.org
Tacon, A. G. J., & Metian, M. (2008). Aquaculture Feed and Food Safety. Annals of the New York Academy of Sciences, 1140(1), 50–59. https://doi.org/10.1196/annals.1454.003
Ytrestøyl, T., Aas, T. S., & Åsgård, T. (2015). Utilisation of feed resources in production of Atlantic salmon (Salmo salar) in Norway. Aquaculture, 448, 365–374. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.aquaculture.2015.06.023