Aquaculture for all
The Fish Site presents: The Vienna Sessions - Conversations about aquaculture. 9 video interviews with aquaculture thought leaders. Watch here.

Domestic farmed fish go under the microscope

US - It's been in the news quite a bit in recent weeks: Much of imported farmed seafood is unsafe. And, the skyrocketing demand for fresh seafood has pushed many wild fisheries into crisis mode. And that's especially true for salmon.

It should be the height of the salmon harvest now, but the May catch was desultory, and for the rest of this month, most of the coast of Northern and Central California is closed to salmon fishing.

Last year, I lived in China for six months. The sections of the China coast that I saw were a churned-up dirty brown, likely from overfishing as well as from coastal discharge. Ocean fishing was forbidden for parts of the year.

I also visited many markets in China, where I saw an abundance of live fish and shrimp, all farm-raised. People bought carp, tilapia and a diverse array of other herbivorous fish for everyday consumption. Wild and carnivorous fish were more unusual.

Wild yellowfish (a breed of croaker) in a restaurant accounted for 75 percent of the cost of a meal for four. High prices like this are part of what we can expect when a wild species is on the brink of extinction.

What are we to do for safe, sustainable and affordable seafood?

Many experts say that aquaculture must be part of the answer. While freshwater fish have long been farmed in the United States, the domestic offshore aquaculture industry is still in its infancy, and governmental regulation in a formative stage.

To get a feel for what's going on today in aquaculture, I met with Corey Peet and other scientists from the Monterey Bay Aquarium's Seafood Watch Program. Peet is the program's aquaculture analyst and the conservancy group's most recent hire -- he came on board last year. The move itself by MBA indicates the importance of aquaculture in the big seafood picture.