Why Aquaculture?

Global seafood demand and the benefits of seafood:

The global population is now more than 7.8 billion and carries a continuously growing trend. It is estimated that by 2050, the Earth will have a population of 9.8 billion according to an article in Nature. Due to this fast-growing global population, more food is needed than ever before. However, there is a caveat to this luminous issue. The food demand increases steadily but the Earth remains the same in size as does what it can naturally offer. So, how do we solve the inevitable? Aquaculture.

The WorldFish Center notes there are other global trends growing which include overall wealth and urbanization. This equates to an increase in capita and in turn an elevated demand for seafood worldwide. Additionally, recent US government dietary guidelines recommend an increased seafood intake due to its nutritional benefits. Seafood contains easily digested proteins while containing low amounts of saturated fats and sodium content. Additionally, it is rich in many essential minerals and vitamins. Regular consumption of seafood can improve the function of the brain, eye, heart, and muscle. Omega-3 fatty acids contained in seafood can reduce the risk of heart attacks, the occurrence of arthritis, and inflammation. Seafood boasts the potential of sufficing the increasing need for sustainable, healthy protein.

Wild fish depletion and the functions of aquaculture:

Overfishing has depleted wild fish stocks in many parts of the world, including the United States. Several oceanic regions adjacent to the US are already being fished beyond their maximum sustainable potential. Furthermore, the growing demand for seafood has exacerbated forced labor and human trafficking issues in some developing countries to meet this demand. Aquaculture can support and reduce the stress of commercial and recreational fisheries. A large amount of the salmon caught in Alaska and the Pacific Northwest start their life in the hatcheries according to an article by NOAA. It is critical to promote the growth of aquaculture production for its functions to reduce the incidence of inhumanity in the fishing industry, relieve the stress of the alarming wild fish stocks, and meet the growing demand for food consumption.

Global and the US aquaculture status:

While the capture fisheries will remain stable, the global aquaculture production is growing at 7.5 percent per year since 1970. According to the FAO in a recent report, aquaculture now contributes roughly half the seafood consumed worldwide. Aquaculture can address the issue of undernourishment in less developed countries while also being beneficial to the economies of developing countries. Aquaculture has become a major food industry in countries like China and Norway, however, it does not thrive in the US yet. The United States is a major consumer of aquaculture products, but it’s a minor producer and provides only 5% of the seafood supply by domestic aquaculture with the output equating to less than 1% of the global market. Importing over 85% of consumed seafood, NOAA states the United States has a major economic deficit that is growing to more than $12 billion annually.

Although the United States is a small player in global aquaculture now, it has advanced technology, refined management techniques, and carries the potential for advancing its aquaculture development.

World Capture Fisheries and Aquaculture Production (FAO SOFIA Report, 2020)

Aquaculture vs Traditional Land-based Livestock Production:

Compared to traditional land-based livestock production, aquaculture systems are on average more efficient in terms of feed conversion rates. Farmed fish is the most resource-efficient animal protein on the planet. James Tidwell, author of Aquaculture Production Systems, states aquaculture produces less waste and requires less input feed to cultivate fish than the same forms of protein such as chicken, pork and beef. Furthermore, aquaculture produces lower greenhouse gasses emissions than traditional land-based livestock production. Gas emissions cannot be ignored considering climate change is a critical global issue that causes various adverse effects on the environment and humans according to NASA. The cause of climate change is due largely to the greenhouse gasses emitted from human activities. With lower greenhouse gasses emission, aquaculture is an excellent tool to produce high-quality protein while reducing the growing impact of climate change.

The benefits of aquaculture in the US:

If implemented correctly, domestic aquaculture systems could lead to an increase in local jobs, an improved food production system, and a reduction in the U.S. seafood trade deficit. Responsible and sustainable aquaculture is the solution in providing future generations with healthy and environmentally-safe protein options.