The message is beginning to sink in: fish farming–also known as aquaculture–is a winning situation. It’s a win for the economy. It’s a win for the consumer. And it’s a win for the planet. Along the nation’s coastline, seafood farmers are growing fish to meet our increasing need for safe and sustainable seafood. But many “seafoodies” may not understand the connection between their local ocean farms and farming in the Midwest. In fact, America’s heartland farmers are making seafood farming more sustainable through their soybean and other grain crops.
One common misconception is that farmed fish consume more fish than the process produces. Aquaculture is a net producer of protein. This ratio of feed to production is constantly improving. However, researchers have developed feed alternatives that lessen the use of the limited supply of wild fish and incorporate more fish processing trimmings and plant-based materials. In the early days of aquaculture, farmed salmon and other carnivorous fish did require a mostly wild-capture diet, on the order of over 50 percent of the feed. Today, that percentage is down to about 20 percent. “It has the potential to be zero percent. There are multiple reasons for that,” said Don Kent, President and CEO of Hubbs-SeaWorld Research Institute. “First, we can move towards smarter use of the fish parts we throw away right now. We don’t eat the head, for example, which can be recycled into feed instead of being thrown away. Second, advanced technology in fish food means fish that typically eat other fish in the wild really don’t need to do that in captivity.”
Quick Facts about Aquaculture:
It is one of the fastest growing forms of food production in the world. Because harvest from many wild fisheries has peaked globally, aquaculture is widely recognized as an effective way to meet the seafood demands of a growing population.
Using aquaculture techniques and technologies, researchers and the aquaculture industry are “farming” all types of freshwater and marine species of fish and shellfish:
- Marine aquaculture refers specifically to the culturing of oceanic species (as opposed to freshwater). Examples of marine aquaculture production include oysters, clams, mussels, shrimp, salmon and algae. Marine aquaculture is just 20 percent of U.S. production, consisting mostly of shellfish (e.g., oysters, clams and mussels).
- Freshwater aquaculture includes trout, catfish and tilapia. About 70 percent of aquaculture in the United States is freshwater farming of catfish and trout. Only a handful of U.S. farms grow marine finfish such as salmon in Maine and Washington State and yellowtail and Pacific threadfin (moi) in Hawaii.
- Source: NOAA
Read more about aquaculture in the Summer issue of "Southern Farm & Garden" - pick up a copy today at Whole Foods, or your local grocery store. Or order a copy online today.