EarthTalk: Fish Farming, Can It Help Rescue the Oceans?

The Fish Site
by The Fish Site
29 January 2007, at 12:00am

GENERAL - Marine aquaculture, an age-old practice in parts of Asia, has grown in popularity in western countries in recent years in response to dwindling supplies of wild fish in the world's oceans.

According to the Pew Oceans Commission, a blue-ribbon panel of fisheries and marine biology experts, high-tech fishing practices, such as drift netting, have led to a potentially irreversible decline in populations of key seafood species. Some shark, tuna and cod species have declined as much as 90 percent in the past few decades.

Most marine biologists agree that, as human population continues to grow worldwide, there will not be enough wild-captured fish to meet demands for seafood. Aquaculture, "the propagation and rearing of aquatic organisms in controlled or selected environments," as defined by the U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), is seen by many as the best way to fill the gap. Currently aquaculture supplies about 30 percent of the world's seafood, up from just four percent 30 years ago.

James McVey of NOAA's Sea Grant program says aquaculture can reduce the need for seafood imports and provide jobs for coastal communities. "The U.S. currently brings in $10 billion in seafood from other countries," he says. "With increased production capacity, our higher yields from aquaculture will bring down this trade deficit, and improve food security--where we're not as reliant on other nations for food."

But aquaculture's down sides give many scientists pause. Studies indicate that, despite the promise of reducing pressures on wild fish, aquaculture requires two pounds of wild-caught fish to use as feed to make one pound of farmed fish. Further, says SeaWeb, breeding farms--where thousands of fish, and their waste, are concentrated--breed diseases that can then escape and contaminate wild fish populations.

Source: Kansas City infoZine