Jul 2, 2021

Is aquaculture a sustainable alternative to traditional (commercial) fishing?

Aquaculture is the farming of fish, crustaceans, molluscs, aquatic plants (algae and microalgae) and other organisms. Aquaculture allows us to farm those organisms in controlled conditions to enhance production (providing protection against predators, regular feeding and so on).

landscape-sea-coast-water-nature-ocean-620567-pxhere.comOyster Farming in the Netherlands 

Why do we need aquaculture now more than ever?
On this planet there is a lot of us, around 7.2 billion. Within what we do everyday, there is eating, a lot of eating. And as the population grows the demand for food will increase, and so will the demand for fish (one of our main sources of proteins). But can we fish our oceans infinitely? Of course not, if we want to maintain wild fish stocks, we can't exploit our oceans more than what we are doing right now, and even in this case fish stocks could decline.

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With the demand for fish increasing, and the impossibility of the oceans to provide us with more fish, aquaculture came in to fill this consumption gap. By this time more than half
 of the seafood consumed in the world comes from aquaculture.

Seaweed_farming_-Nusa_Lembongan,_Bali-16Aug2009_editSeaweed farming in Indonesia [credits: Jean-Marie Hullot, CC BY-SA 2.0] 

Is aquaculture sustainable?

One of the main concerns of people is what do we feed the fish with? At the moment the most common feed source for aquaculture are fish meal and fish oil, both produced with by-catch (fish caught unintentionally while fishing target species), and if used smartly it has been proven to be convenient: it leads to more fish than what is required to produce it. However, they are dependent on traditional fishing, and with aquaculture increasing year by year, they are getting always more expensive. Because fish oil and fish meal are finite resources, there is another source for valuable feed that could be used in aquaculture: microalgae. Those can be farmed as well, and aquaculture could become always more and more independent.

fish2388Microalgae cultivation in the US

Another concern is the effect that the nutrients coming from the fish manure can have on the surrounding environment. Indeed a nutrient enriched environment can cause major algal blooms (eutrophication) which leads to oxygen depletion and eventually dead zones in the water bodies. However, this issue can be limited by choosing locations with currents that facilitate the diffusion of nutrients, and by breeding digestive efficient fish. By farming certain microalgae, seaweeds or bivalves nutrients can actually be removed from the water and a zero impact aquaculture farm is possible.

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 Fish Farming in the US

Aquaculture in Zeeland

If you are interested in aquaculture, Zeeland is the right place to be. This Dutch province has a long tradition in aquaculture, because the location in a river delta is very suitable. In this area we can find the cultivation of algae, seaweed, worms, oysters, lobsters and fish.
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